“He reached out and tried to touch my chest” – Anonymous
Back in December last year I was at the Royal Blenheim pub with a friend, waiting to be served at the bar. A man next to us, who was clearly very drunk – he was having trouble standing and his speech was slurred – kept trying to make conversation with me. Trying to be polite, I replied briefly to what he’d said, but didn’t want to encourage the conversation. He carried on chatting and some of what he was saying was inappropriate, e.g. questioning what I was wearing. He reached out and tried to touch my chest, at which point I grabbed his hand to stop him, and stepped away; his hand was about an inch from my chest when I grabbed it, so it was unambiguous. He seemed confused! I felt so shocked that I didn’t want to acknowledge what had happened; I collected the drink I’d ordered and went to sit down with my friend. The bar man, who had seen the whole thing, continued serving the drunk man alcohol, and there was no attempt made to question what had happened, or see if I was ok.
The next day I went back to the pub to complain and to ask what the pub’s policy on sexual harassment is. The manager, who hadn’t been present when the harassment took place, took down a written report of what had happened and said that he thought he knew who the man in question was (which suggests to me that this probably wasn’t the first time something like this had happened – but that’s speculation..!) He said he’d speak to the man in question, and also the barman, and get back to me.
The manager emailed me later that day to say that the barman had corroborated my story. He’d spoken to my harasser, who’d apologised and said that he hadn’t ‘meant to’ touch me (which I find hard to believe!) I asked the manager what their sexual harassment policy is and how they would prevent this sort of thing happening again, as it was clearly inappropriate to continue to serve the man after he’d tried to touch me – and probably inappropriate to serve him so much alcohol in the first place, as he was very drunk. The manager said that they didn’t have a sexual harassment policy, and made no mention of putting one in place. I was so discouraged that I didn’t press any further with the pub.
I made a police report instead, which was also a discouraging experience. The police officer I spoke to said that it might have been my ‘perception’ that the man tried to touch me (which is an oddly undermining word to choose, especially as my story had been corroborated both by my friend and the barman) but that as he hadn’t successfully touched me, no crime had been committed and there wasn’t a lot they could do. After I pressed for it, they got in touch with the pub to ask them to keep an eye on the harasser in future. My only consolation is that I hope the Royal Blenheim was surprised enough by a phone call from the police that they’ll reconsider how they treat sexual harassment on their premises in future.
I’ve never been back to the pub and I’ve discouraged my friends from going there, as it’s clearly not a safe space for women, and they’ve not indicated to me any intention of making it safer. The whole experience – including making the police report – was really unpleasant, and unfortunately it’s undermined my trust in the police (as well, obviously, as the pub.) I understand that there was no case for prosecution, but there was also no need for the patronising and dismissive attitude.