Women ‘desensitised’ to inappropriate touching

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WOMEN have become ‘desensitised’ to being touched without consent and often expect it on a night out, the charity manager of a sexual assault support organisation has said.

Zoe Collins-Fisher, from Jersey Action Against Rape, believes that too often perpetrators are not called out on their actions and that this can lead to more serious crimes being committed.

Her comments come after 45-year-old Lloyd William Evans was convicted on Tuesday of sexually touching a teenage girl in a St Helier bar, following a day-long trial held last week.

The Magistrate’s Court heard that Evans had approached the 17-year-old victim on the dance floor at Chambers in Mulcaster Street, and that she had recoiled after being grabbed in the genital area before Evans’s hand then moved up her front to her chest.

Ms Collins-Fisher said: ‘It has become a bit of an expectation for girls that they will be touched inappropriately when on the dancefloor on a night out and that is wrong. It is a crime and no one has the right to touch you without your consent.

‘If they are desensitised to it, it can lead to something even more serious because often the perpetrator sees their lack of reaction as an invitation to take things further,’ she said.

Statistics released last year revealed that in the previous five years there had been 650 reports of violence and sexual violence against women, resulting in 72 convictions. Of these 209 were reports of rape, resulting in nine convictions.

Ms Collins-Fisher explained that the charity’s helpline regularly receives a high volume of calls from girls who have been touched without their consent.

‘Girls will ring up and say that they were touched without their consent on a night out, it made them feel uncomfortable and they don’t know what to do about it,’ she said.

‘It is really important for girls and boys to recognise that they must give consent and if they are touched without it, it is not right and they should speak up about it,’ she added.

The charity is hoping to launch a campaign and work with night-time venues next year to raise awareness on the topic.

Ms Collins-Fisher said it is crucial that Islanders help ‘actively change how commonplace such behaviour is’.

‘We want to work with venues and run training for bar and door staff to help them be more vigilant on nights out and observe particular patterns of behaviour. We hope employers see the value in this type of training and that they will all take part,’ she said.

‘As with all sexual-related crimes, they are very difficult to convict because it is one person’s word versus another. However, if bystanders call out these types of behaviours if they see them happening on a night out then we can work together to stop this happening,’ she added.

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