He closed his hand around my throat and said: "I wanna see you naked." Taking my mumbled dismissal as consent, the older man leaned and pushed his mouth onto mine.
The incident wasn't what I was expecting when I met up with friends at a Sydney nightclub to celebrate a 19th birthday. But it wasn't altogether surprising.
Although I was able to get away before the stranger succeeded in pulling me into the nearest bathroom, I felt distressed. For a while, my conscience was clouded by the shame accompanying the victim tag. I should I have been more sober, kept my guard up. I should have stood up to him, said "no" louder, more clearly, I should have caught his name and reported him.
Until I realised something: it wasn't my fault. At no point during the night did I ask, in any way, to be assaulted. Not by being intoxicated or wearing a skirt or dancing.
However, it seems that the right to be free from unwanted sexual harassment is a right enjoyed by few young women. Recounts of being stalked, groped and physically intimidated are passed around like common currency among my female club-going friends. It's almost an unspoken truth: if you go clubbing, you'll probably receive some form of unwanted sexual advance.
I never asked for my body to be degraded as an object. I'm a person, with my own unique thoughts and feelings. I'm a young woman, not 'tits' or 'ass'. I don't exist solely as a goal for sexual conquest.
I find it ironic that we talk of wider equality, yet sexual harassment in these spaces is so often normalised. When 'getting some' on a night out is a cause for celebration among young men, irrespective of whether that 'some' was consensual, we encourage predatory attitudes.
If minor incidents of sexual harassment and violence go unpunished (as they frequently do) this behaviour continues unchecked. Minor turns to major, becoming sexual violence and domestic violence. A 2014 study in The Lancet journal found that Australian women are sexually assaulted at twice the global rate. That's especially concerning for a nation seen to have protected gender equality in legal terms.
When it's normal for young women to go through life expecting some form of violence to be used against them at some point, something is wrong.
All I ask for is an environment young women can feel safe in; safe to enjoy themselves as the venues were intended. This is one small step towards equality.Suggest a correction