Updated: Aug 8
We are thrilled to have our lovely youth panel on talking about the issues highlighted by the panel event back in November 2021 that kickstarted this campaign, which included speakers from StrutSafe, Glasglow Girls Club, Hood Magazine, Richland Minibuses, and Thriving Survivors (which you can find here).
Our young panel provides crucial perspectives and stories that our previous panel events have missed. In particular, the youth panel had many stories to share of feeling unsafe, being let down by authorities, and feeling disempowered by sexist and dismissive attitudes. Their perspectives are vital in providing a well-rounded approach to safety as well as considering how best to protect young people, who may be more vulnerable or likely to be silenced. If you missed the introduction to our youth panel, you can read more about them here.
Key issues: victim-blaming
Some of Emma Miller’s points from the November 2021 panel proved controversial amongst our youth panel. Even though Emma’s comments were well-intentioned, she essentially argued that women need to rely on their instincts and fight back verbally to stay safe, which the youth panel highlighted as problematic. Olivia replied: ‘There’s been a few times when I’ve been in town and boys have come over to me, or men, and they try and approach you, and I have always been nice to them, because for me that is just instinct. But then, for me in that situation my hands are tied, because if I were to do what Emma was saying and shout back, I feel they would maybe turn on me […] It’s really hard to know’ (42:05-52). The expectation for young women especially to verbally fight back is perhaps irresponsible and may put women in greater danger, and as Elijah noted, not necessarily effective: ‘It’s really like rolling the dice and taking a chance, because being nice and coming across harmless, that could be [seen as] an invitation’ (43:01-9). Rebecca agreed: ‘It can go one of two ways’ (~45:38).
Elijah elaborated also on how it was an unrealistic expectation, and had the potential to lay the blame on survivors of assault for “not being strong enough” or “not fighting back”. Elijah explained: ‘To fight back, not everyone has that ability. And we’re not undermining anyone’s strength; if you freeze up and get assaulted, it’s not your fault, and it’s not reflective of your strength. Some are physically strong; some are emotionally strong. It doesn’t mean anyone’s lesser’ (43:16-37). Elijah continued: ‘It’s up to [the perpetrators] to learn to be decent people’ (~44:29). Olivia agreed strongly with Elijah’s sentiment: ‘Everyone reacts in different ways, so why should we have to take it into our hands?’ (46:08-12). For young people especially, the expectation to show “strength” in this way is much more of an ask, as they are still developing their confidence and self-esteem.
Rebecca, on the subject of safety apps, noting they too could be ineffective: ‘It’s great having [the apps] because people know where you are, but also people can see on the app but they’re not there with me, so if something does happen, it’s going to happen’ (46:35-46). Elijah also noted that it makes friends and family feel guilty if they are not vigilantly checking someone’s location: ‘It creates more guilt on the part of other women […] You can only do so much as an individual person’ (46:57-47:14).
Key issues: loss of trust towards the police
Rebecca and Elijah both agreed with the panel’s sentiments about not being able to trust the police. Although Rebecca felt there would be police officers who could help, it is difficult to know, and Elijah added that racially motivated police violence has added to his loss of faith. ‘You see crime from white people against people of colour, particularly in the justice system, and that is a flawed system. It only benefits people that are typically cishet white men’ (1:15:29-47). This is why, for Elijah, he feels that: ‘Having women in power is so important because women’s issues [otherwise] just get overlooked’ (49:53-58). He added that this applies equally to ethnic minority groups and LGBTQIA+ people.
Elijah also noted how money funnelled into the police goes towards arms and use of force, making them ‘overfunded’ in that way, but ironically also underfunded and under-resourced when it comes to overturning its structural flaws and biases. ‘There’s no balance to it’, he summated (~1:16:34).
Olivia: ‘If we were to find out how many police officers have assaulted someone, whether it’s in uniform or out of uniform, it’d probably be quite shocking. It probably gets brushed under the carpet because they are the law’ (1:17:33-52). She also cited the murder of Sarah Everard, as well as a video she saw of excessive force by police against a black woman, as recent examples of why young people’s trust in the police has been shaken. Elijah noted how it is easy for police officers to ‘us[e] that power to take advantage of people’ (~1:18:08), as well as using their power to silence victims (~1:21:50). He also made the point that background checks are insufficient, as it could be that they haven’t committed the crime yet or because the power they have as a police officer grants them the ability to act violently.
Rebecca: ‘These people in power should be the ones trying to make the change as well. Some maybe are wanting to make a change, but there’s another side where they’re the ones doing wrong. How can we put these people in power, but also how do know they’re not going to do anything wrong?’ (1:22:23-44). Elijah noted how it becomes even more complicated when wrong-doers seek redemption: ‘The opposite can be true: someone might make a mistake in their past, but can turn out to be a really good person who wants to make change, but aren’t given the time of day’ (1:23:25-34). Elijah has touched on here the circular nature of criminality and prisons, in which ex-perpetrators are disempowered from making positive decisions through state punishment.
Key issues: getting home on nights out / unreliability of taxis
Rebecca began by saying that: ‘I’ve been in situations where taxis haven’t shown up if I’ve pre-booked it, when I’m coming out of a club, and situations where I’ve gotten a taxi and I have no idea where we’re going’ (1:41:18-33).
Olivia had a similar story: ‘There was one night that I came out a club and we were in Merchant City, and there was a taxi rank where they were all waiting […] but there was a guy in a car, and he wrote in sharpie on a bit of paper “Uber” and stuck it to his back windscreen, and he just pulled up and these girls went into the car, really drunk, because they obviously thought it was an Uber. […] We were standing there like, “I can’t believe they just went into that car.” But then you feel guilty, like “should I have said something? Should I have let them get into that taxi?”’ (1:42:28-1:43:08).
Elijah agreed with Hayley Millar of Richland Minibuses on the panel: ‘With local hire, it’s about business, but at least they’ll care a lot more about their clientele and who they’re servicing’ (1:44:13). Olivia recounted a story of a woman who was taken by a licensed Uber driver to a house full of Asian men instead of her own house. Although her phone had died, she was able to run away after saying she had left something in the car (~1:46:10). Stories like these, where even licensed drivers present a threat, have left many feeling vulnerable and unsafe, especially after nights out. Elijah also noted that the ethnicity of the men in the story creates its own problems of racist fear-mongering, when perpetrators in reality come from all backgrounds and races.
Key issues: spiking
Rebecca recounted a story about a friend who seemed to be fine one minute, but was completely incapacitated the next; they suspected she had been spiked. Rebecca called an ambulance who proved unhelpful, asking why they had called, and responded by saying they should call a taxi for her instead. After the ambulance turned up, they expected the group to get home by themselves; they ended up having to wait forty minutes until their friend’s family member came to pick her up. ‘I personally think they should have taken her to the hospital […] It was just so frustrating’ (2:12:22-50). Olivia had a similar story of a friend who had been injected in a brightly lit pub, who discovered a mark on her arm with bruising. She went to the hospital, who didn’t believe her story. ‘They said, “you must have been too drunk, you must have just bumped your arm.” They didn’t believe she had been spiked’ (2:16:29-36). Olivia said this was before the surge in increasing in reporting, but nonetheless, her friend’s dismissal meant she did not access necessary care, such as getting her bloods checked for infection from the needle.
A lack of resources, and the feeling that young people are at fault for drinking, likely led to these situations. Elijah noted how the NHS is understaffed and underfunded, and paired for a UK test tube shortage, this makes them less likely to address these situations seriously. He suggested having people on hand who are trained in first aid for exactly these kinds of situations, and mentioned the recent Travis Scott Astroworld disaster as an instance where trained staff were unable to help people due to both the crowd’s and Travis Scott’s disregard for the safety of the people around them.
Elijah also agreed with Alice Jackson from Strutsafe, who noted that 4Chan and other misogynistic online spaces likely played a role in the development of injections as a form of spiking: ‘There is a source, there is a point where someone said, “look, what if we did this.” And to have it happen in multiple locations, somewhere online like 4Chan would make sense. […] Who’s moderating these platforms? Who’s taking accountability for what’s happening on these platforms? And who’s holding their mates accountable?’ (2:14:39-2:15:02). He continued that their online presence showed that there is no certain age demographic who can be reliably pinned as perpetrators: ‘It’s not just older men being creeps assaulting people, it’s people our age, because they’re the ones who are in the club spiking the drinks and injecting people’ (2:15:08-20).
Key solutions: involving men
Elijah pinpointed how abusive and threatening behaviour is learned, placing the blame on patriarchal standards which cause men to act out. ‘[Patriarchy] harms everyone, because men are taught to bottle up their feelings and to bottle up everything, and then they take that out in forms of aggression. […] It’s really about getting everyone to be supported, and to take down the system that hurts everyone’ (44:46-45:10).
Olivia also noted that because it is so often men who are perpetrators, and whose behaviour is frequently validated by other men, they need to be involved in awareness and campaigning too: ‘Even it’s your dad, your brother, your boyfriend, whoever, if you can make that really small change with someone close to you, it’ll spread to their friends and their friends and so on’ (52:46-55). She further noted the number of men she knows who, although not perpetrators of violence, fail to call out others’ problematic comments and behaviours: ‘More men, whether they themselves say “I would never do something like that”, they still need to take account of what’s around them and take them up on comments’ (54:33-47). Elijah agreed: ‘Being on the fence isn’t productive’ (54:56-59).
The prevailing sentiment of our youth panel was: “who can you trust?” They felt that stereotyping was not only harmful to minority groups, but ineffective at determining who presents a threat to their safety. Structural flaws, such as a police force geared towards violence and a criminal justice system based on punishment rather than support, only exacerbated rates of sexual violence and harassment. They felt solutions lay in empowering women and minority groups in politics; campaigning against victim-blaming culture; encouraging men to become involved and to change the culture of male socialisation so that it is not disrespectful towards other groups; supporting men to break away from patriarchal standards; empowering the NHS to take claims seriously (especially young people’s); and providing clubs, bars, and events the resources to deal with instances of spiking and assault.
Tune in next time for our youth panel to take on the subsequent So What…? But What If! panel events.