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In the Market, by Rebekah Chilvers, January 16, 2018

King's Lynn Town Sign
King's Lynn Town Sign

You’d have thought the biggest scandal to (dis)grace Hollywood in years would have made people think twice before being inappropriate with others, but, sadly, a recent incident has proved otherwise.

A couple of weekends ago I enjoyed a night out in Lynn with some friends, or at least I had enjoyed it until I was queueing for a drink at a bar and I was pinched on the bottom by someone I didn’t know.

It might not sound like a lot to some, but it made me feel uncomfortable, unhappy and, quite frankly, pretty enraged.

It has happened to me a few times during my six or so years of being old enough to ‘go out’, and I’m still flummoxed every time it happens. As I’ve got older and perhaps less naive, I have become less and less tolerant of this kind of behaviour.

It is unsolicited, unwanted and backwards. I just can’t understand the thought process, and I can’t imagine it often yields the desired results – if those ‘results’ are what I believe them to be.

According to a survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the charity Drinkaware last year, almost three quarters of 18- to 24-year-old men and women who drink in bars, clubs or pubs said they had seen sexual harassment on a night out.

Nearly two-thirds of women and a quarter of men said they had been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment themselves, Drinkaware said.

These statistics are pretty sobering to say the least. In the 21st century, something needs to change. Drinkaware is just one organisation hoping to do something about it.

The charity issued some advice following the research to encourage those who witness this kind of behaviour to “challenge the status quo”.

This includes 1. Spot it – is something dodgy happening? 2. Check it – is it safe to step in? 3. Speak out – if it’s safe to do so, check in with the person being targeted. Are they okay? If not, try staff or security.

The severity of sexual harassment incidents varies from case to case, but even the smaller issues should be challenged.

I found former politician Ann Widdecombe’s comments on Celebrity Big Brother regarding wolf whistling problematic. She said she didn’t believe it was sexist and described the act as a “cheery expression of appreciation”.

While I can understand that this isn’t at the most serious end of the scale, what I can’t agree to is that it is OK.

And I can’t say my own experiences have always been “cheery”.

More often than not, it’s felt intimidating and leery, which I don’t particularly find “cheery”, sorry Ms Widdecombe (I’m sure that’s not the first topic I’ve disagreed with her on).

Despite the current state of things, I do believe and trust that the tide is turning.

The #MeToo hashtag proved just how widespread the issue is, but the Time’s Up movement and the response to it at the Golden Globe Awards gives me hope that change will come in time if we stand up to make it happen.

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