It was my first night out independently without the support of my husband and with a group of women I did not know too well. It had taken me weeks to decide whether to attend and I kept changing my mind but plucked up the courage because I needed to make that first big step at some point.
It was a sit-down type of event that recreated the atmosphere of a prohibition style speakeasy, we had our own table where we could sit and enjoy the 1920’s Jazz and Cabaret acts. We also had travel arranged too and from the event – so for me it seemed like a great opportunity to kick off my social appearances again.
It was a lovely evening which did not end so well. Whilst everyone was preparing to get back on the coach to go home, I popped to the toilets and a blaring fire alarm sounded. What I didn’t know at the time was that the event security set this off in order to get people to leave the venue quicker and there was no actual emergency. Hurriedly and hobbling I tried to make my exit, but I was slowed down by my lack of mobility.
One of the security staff a large imposing lady was shouting at me from across the room to get out and not even bother with the walking stick. I carried on trying to move faster and tripping over my own feet. She was shouting at me and then before I knew it was behind me pushing me along, shouting that I was a liability and shouldn’t be out in public. I was stunned and couldn’t find my words. A second security staff member noticed I was visibly distressed, he stepped in but only made matters worse by trying to pick me up and carry me down the stairs because the lifts were out of order. I pushed him away, trying my best to run outside.
I was weeping by the time I got to the coach, I couldn’t find my words to tell my friend what had happened. I sat at the back by myself and cried the entire 40 minutes home. I fled the coach when we returned back and locked myself in the toilets until my husband collected me. That really knocked my confidence and it took months for me to go out socially and rarely without my husband.
This was not the first or last time of non-consensual touching, but it was an incident which deeply affected me and continues to do so. I now make an exit plan as soon as I step foot in a venue and often find myself sat close to exits on edge waiting for the alarm.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex