Author: Ruth Graham

Street Harassment: Fighting Back

Once upon a time, I was on a train. I was chatting to a very good friend on my mobile for half an hour (yes, I’m one of those annoying phone-on-train ‘oh has it cut out again?’ people) until my phone died. I’d finished my book. Boredom ensued. I decide to go on a saunter down the train in search of some coffee. As I went through the carriages, on my saunter, I came across a fairly packed carriage, carrying some football fans. As I walked past the throng, I heard someone shout something after me: ‘lift up your skirt a bit love, let us see some gange!’ Being a good feminist, and generally protected by a bubble of reasonable, non-violent people, I turned around, and with my best scowl (and best Mancunian accent), asked, ‘who said that?’ Honestly, I can barely remember the details of what followed anymore – it’s too long ago and anger/upset erases the memory. Check the court transcript if you’re curious (I’m guessing it’s public). Anyway, what got shouted back was seriously offensive, and pretty threatening. Perhaps somewhat naively, I politely informed them that this was unacceptable, and that I was going to report them. I turned and stomped down the train passage way (full of silent passengers), and by the time I’d got to the other end of the carriage, I saw that some men had sprung out of their seats, and were following me down the carriage.

Let’s pause for a minute. Now the thing is, mostly when the topic of sexual harassment comes up, two ideas always seem to rear their ugly heads. To me, those seem to be a) surely it’s just a compliment, as it’s usually directed at people who dress ‘sexily’? And b) responding will only escalate the situation though, won’t it? All I can say is that you don’t need to take anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated as a compliment. It’s just harassment. And verbal abuse (including sexual comments), and physical intimidation (including following someone) are utterly wrong, and they should be treated as crimes. If in doubt, you can always call the police! You’re not wasting their time, you’re doing society a massive favour by calling out those who intimidate and harass. You may just be the thing that stops them. Continue reading

‘Stop Taking Offence, Start Taking Care’: A Response

***NB: this article has simply been uploaded by me. It is the property of the forty eight representatives who have signed it (see below)***

Dear Editors of TCS,

We would like to respond to the comment article by Phil Sheppard entitled “Stop taking offence –‐ start taking care” (Lent Term Issue 8), in which the author discusses women’s responsibility for their personal safety with regards to the crime of rape.

Mr Sheppard suggests that it is dangerous for feminist campaigns to “attribute one hundred per cent of the factual responsibility to [the criminal]” since this may give the impression that women should have no responsibility for their personal safety, thus putting them at risk. He argues that not all rapists are responsive to education directed at men and that we should also continue to educate women on how best to take reasonable steps to prevent such a crime.

We wonder if Mr Sheppard could provide advice as to what these reasonable steps would be? Rapists all rape in different circumstances. Some may rape a drunken acquaintance; others may rape a sober stranger; others may rape their wife or daughter. A woman may avoid getting drunk at a party, only to find that she is raped by her friendly housemate when she returns home. A woman may avoid walking alone after dark, only to find that she is raped by the taxi driver (or bus driver) who has driven her to her destination. A woman may avoid dressing in revealing clothing only to be raped while wearing a baggy tracksuit. This, incidentally, is the driving force behind the SlutWalks that are disparagingly mentioned in the article: they serve to illustrate that a) clothing is factually not a causal factor in rape (women are routinely raped wearing burkas in the Middle East, for example) and b) it should therefore not be used as an excuse for the rape. Continue reading

Cambridge Speaks Out

The CUSU Women’s Campaign are proud to launch Cambridge Speaks Out, a place where survivors of sexual violence can give their testimonies anonymously.

23% of women and 3% of men experience sexual assault as an adult.
5% of women and 0.4% of men experience rape.
40% of adults who are raped tell no one about it.

Cambridge Speaks Out is a space where people can be heard. If you have experienced sexual assault, rape, or sexual harassment, and would like to speak out about what has happened to you, you can do so at

For information on getting support, go to:
There is also a link on this page for information on how to support a friend going through this.

Some people find telling their story helpful, and if this feels like something you would like to do, this space is for you.

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