Sexually assaulted during Reclaim the Night London

// 22 November 2009

I’m planning to post something more about Reclaim the Night later. But I wanted to right away post about how a sad incident that happened. The blogger Noble Savage was sexually assaulted during the march:

Last night, I marched through the streets of central London with 2,000 other women and dozens of police escorts, holding a sign that said “End violence against women.”

Last night, I used my voice to chant and shout about sexual violence, unsafe streets and women’s rights.

Last night, when I should have felt at my most powerful, most inspired and safest, I was sexually assaulted.

I had to stop typing there for a minute and make sure I’d written that right and that it wasn’t just a strange dream. But yes, I was sexually assaulted at a march protesting sexual assault. How’s that for irony?

As we came through Leicester Square, a man pushed his way abruptly past the barrier and with one swift movement of his outstretched arm, managed to push me backwards and roughly grab my breasts at the same time. I swung at him with my right hand but he’s already stormed past so I only made contact with the back of his shoulder before he disappeared out the other side and down a side street. My friend Jen and I looked at each other in disbelief and shock. I hadn’t seen him coming until he was centimetres away and before I noticed the arm coming at me, what I undeniably saw was a face riddled with disgust and anger.

He, along with the man who had spit towards us earlier, and the one who had stood on the side shouting “Boo! Boo!” with his thumbs and his mouth turned downwards, and the significant number of men I saw mocking us — laughing, rolling their eyes and grabbing their crotches — were obviously disturbed by our presence. Perhaps we were reminders of violence they had perpetrated themselves, or a catalyst for the potential violence bubbling within them, just beneath the surface, like a nearly-boiled kettle. Maybe they felt threatened by our numbers and our voices and our demands. Maybe they were scared.

But whatever the reasons for their animosity, they will never know what it’s like to be scared of being humiliated and violated, in public, by people who feel they have a right to our bodies, our smiles, our time and our compliance. They will never know what it’s like to trade stories, with friends of the harrassment, abuse, assault and violence nearly each and every one of us has experienced, some of us in many different ways. They will never understand that we call these ‘war stories’ because every day is a battle and we are tired of feeling like soldiers, fighting off an enemy that has the better, more powerful weapons. They will never experience life and humanity the way we experience life and humanity because their view is unobstructed. They stand on the shoulders and backs of so many people, so many women, to survey their kingdom and claim rights to us, its spoils, with indifference and greed.

I don’t have anything much to say about this, except to state the obvious, that it’s terrible and horrible that it happened – and brings home yet again how far we have to go in really reclaiming the streets. Please go and read her whole post.

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 22 November 2009 at 8:00 pm

That’s awful, what a bunch of pathetic, cowardly little shits. They were clearly threatened by such a powerful demonstration of women’s right to be free of male violence and control.

I hope you’re not too shaken up, Noble Savage; your post sends a really powerful message, I’ll be making sure as many people as possible read it!

tomhulley // Posted 22 November 2009 at 9:16 pm

I am so sorry that you experienced such nastiness and admire and respect you for your determination to remain ‘undeterred’.

November 25th will be White Ribbon Day when many men (but not enough) state their opposition to violence against women. In Australia, for instance, there is a pledge:

* I swear:

* never to commit violence against women,

* never to excuse violence against women, and

* never to remain silent about violence against women

* This is my oath.

I wrote this poem with your struggle in mind:

stand and be counted

one

just one woman saying ‘no’

in the midst of excuses

resisting the constant dripping

of men’s privileges

wearing away the stones

but it only takes a look

or a hint and a smile

then another woman stands

and another still

then men also abandon idols

stand aside and applaud

as their sisters reclaim

the night and the day

and the lives we have lost

Shreen // Posted 22 November 2009 at 9:41 pm

I agree Noble Savage’s blog post on this was excellent.

This is a shocking incident and I think it needs a wider audience – I want everyone to know about this.

Yet at the same time, something deep down tells me I’m not actually surprised, which is f’ing tragic!

saranga // Posted 22 November 2009 at 9:59 pm

For. fuck. sake.

What a wanker.

Jackie Bather // Posted 22 November 2009 at 10:16 pm

Well, he’s clearly a deeply inadequate man,isn’t he ? Probably carrying around a planet-sized inferiority complex, too.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 22 November 2009 at 11:25 pm

I participated in RTN march yesterday evening and the actions of this virulent woman-hating male clearly shows he and others of his ilk are afraid of women marching and speaking out against mundane and daily male sexual violence against women. This is why we need RTN and why we must continue to hold such men accountable and responsible for their women-hating.

It is particularly horrific given there were innumerable police officers present but at the same time it proves beyond a shadow of any doubt how quickly and easily it is for men to perpetrate sexual violence against women. Nothing Noble Savage did provoked this man’s sexual assault – blame is 100% with the male perpetrator and also his male companions who also demonstrated their women-hating.

Should we women have stayed at home with our ‘knitting?’ Of course not – because if we did this would have meant the men who commit violence in all its forms against women and children will have succeeded in silencing and maintaining male power over women. I’m glad to see already the comments on her blogsite were totally supportive and all condemned this male perpetrator’s actions.

sianmarie // Posted 23 November 2009 at 11:14 am

wow, thanks for such a moving post. the last paragrpah sums up the feelings perfectly. sorry this happened to you noblesavage – thanks for taking your experience and creating such a moving and important piece of writing

Charlotte // Posted 23 November 2009 at 11:40 am

This is awful, but it makes me all the more determined to be at Glasgow Reclaim the Night on Wednesday, standing strong!

Clare // Posted 23 November 2009 at 1:40 pm

Yeah, I noticed a lot of boos etc but then I noticed a LOT of waves and applauds from people, men and women, young and old. A lot of men being stupid, dancing to the loud drums, cheering out etc, but not being particularly crude or offensive. A better reaction than last year imo, but that might be due to where I was in the march.

Sorry to hear about the woman sexually harassed.

Deya // Posted 23 November 2009 at 4:09 pm

The man who did this probably did feel ‘inadequate’ as some have said, to some extent, on seeing the march. However this was a very well attended march, with a police presence. The man’s target was not alone in the dark late at night – she was one of a huge crowd, with police not very far away.

Hence it just goes to show the enormous, ginormous amount of male privilege at work here – he clearly thought the world was on his side and he could get away with this act.

And as we all well know, from day one of his life, the world HAS been on his side. Traditional, religious, commercial and most ‘alternative’ media are all about drilling into males that they own women, and drilling into female babies from day one that they are owned by males.

I can’t stop myself wishing that that man had got engulfed by the crowd and, well, been subjected to at least mass verbal dressing down from the marchers.

It also makes me wish there was a march every Saturday.

Karen // Posted 23 November 2009 at 5:51 pm

I am so, so, sorry Noble Savage that you took to the streets to stand up for the rights of us all and were treated so contemptuously by a total degenerate that is probably seriously frightened of you because you are a strong woman. It is just shocking that police presence didn’t deter this arsehole from their actions, which say to me that people (I use the term loosely) like this maybe now realise that they are the endangered species because some of the western world is at least heading in roughly the right direction. They are frightened of us, keep strong and keep fighting!

Anthony // Posted 23 November 2009 at 5:56 pm

That this happened is a disgrace. I was also embarrassed to read of the men who were mocking the marchers. They are obviously pathetic, insecure individuals, to mock a fantastic collection of women who are marching against all the lowlives who make streets unsafe for women.

As a male I would be ashamed to be associated with the likes of those who would attempt to mock the marchers, who are a hundred times as strong as they will ever be themselves.

All my best wishes to all involved with Reclaim the Night, and let’s all hope for a day when women and men can walk the streets safely everywhere.

Noble Savage // Posted 23 November 2009 at 10:39 pm

Thank you all very much for your words of support, and to The F-Word for spreading the word about this incident. I sincerely appreciate all of the messages and comments I’ve received. It makes me feel immeasurably better to know that the feminist community is completely behind me, and other women to whom this happens. I hope any of you who are London-based are able to make it to the vigil and counter-protest that Million Women Rise and others have organised. I will be speaking about my experience there and hope to see a good turnout to honour all of the women who have experienced male violence and intimidation. Thank you again.

Cat // Posted 23 November 2009 at 11:41 pm

I was going to swear but I won’t. I am incredulous! I am sending sisterly love to you from Edinburgh.

A man once said about me and other women that he “refused to be pussy whipped by the femi-nazis”, which really is his fantasy but really as if.

This attack on you was an attack on women all over -he really thinks women are available for him, his rights inflated beyond all normal recognition. We offend him and I am glad we offend him however there is an issue because he is an abusive man – he believed he had the right to abuse and violate you and the chances are he probably believes he has the right to abuse and violate other women too.

This is why we have to take to the streets because of men because of him!

Marylin // Posted 26 November 2009 at 2:00 pm

Noble Savage I just want to add my disgust about the assualt you suffered. Despicable behaviour like that against women marching to rid us all of such male violence stands as a testament to why we were all there. Thank you for having the courage of speaking out and I hope your shock at what happened hasn’t hurt you too much. x x

Katherine // Posted 5 December 2009 at 2:39 pm

How on earth was this man allowed to get away with doing something so unutterably stupid?!? Was the rest of the world looking the other way?

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds