Laura Whitmore has written about her experience of being sexually assaulted on a nightclub dancefloor.
Laura Whitmore has penned a powerful article for the latest edition of Hot Press magazine about the objectification of women by men and the media – and has addressed, for the very first time, an incident which saw her “violated” by a stranger in a nightclub.
Explaining that she had gone out with her boyfriend, Iain Stirling, and some friends, Whitmore says that she had been enjoying herself until she suddenly felt a man’s “hand on the back of my leg.”
“Initially I thought it was my boyfriend messing or a mate about to pinch my bottom,” she continues, “but the hand went under my skirt, between my legs, and firmly touched me.
“As I turned, I saw it was a guy who I did not know. He was laughing.
“I pushed him away and told him to get his ‘f**king hands off me’. It was dark and I was shocked by what had just happened. I couldn’t recognise his face under the strobing lights and, then, he was gone.”
Whitmore adds: “I was a bit tipsy and I was wearing a short skirt. Did I deserve that to happen? I told the manager but what could I do? What was the point?”
The former Strictly Come Dancing star goes on to address the recent Ulster rape trial, which saw rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding unanimously cleared of raping a female student at a house party two years ago.
However, as stylist.co.uk’s Elle Griffiths previously pointed out, while the men denied any charges of rape, there were some facts that were never disputed by either legal team throughout the trial.
“The complainant, a teenager at the time, left the party in hysterical tears, bleeding profusely after a sexual encounter with two of the men,” points out Griffiths.
“A subsequent medical examination discovered her to have a tear in her vagina. The men exchanged joking messages in a WhatsApp group the next day, referring to her as ‘loose’ and a ‘slut’, while commending themselves for being ‘top shaggers’ and remarking that whatever happened that night was like ‘a merry-go-round at a carnival’.”
It is worth noting that, since the jury’s decision was announced, the hashtag #IBelieveHer has begun circulating on social media – suggesting that attitudes around sexual assault cases are finally (albeit slowly) changing.
Yet, on the flipside, there are still all too many people who have misinterpreted the “not guilty” verdict for Jackson and Olding as a “guilty” verdict for their accuser (despite the fact that there are no signs that the complainant is about to be charged with perverting the course of justice).
As such, she has been subjected to a barrage of abuse online, with many damning her as a “fame-chasing bitch” – despite the fact that the identity of this so-called “fame-chasing bitch” was withheld from the public, in a bid to protect her anonymity.
“My fear now is the media circus and the ‘slut-shaming’ will stop other women from coming forward when they have been the victim of assault or rape,” writes Whitmore.
“What really struck home with me was the number of women who contacted me over my social media to say that the derogatory messages the men exchanged was simply culturally accepted as ‘lad banter’ and that loads of guys in those kind of social circles do that – and that’s just the way it is. ‘She was asking for it’.
“This is a comment I’ve seen repeatedly online since the verdict of not guilty came out and it is the ‘entitled’ mentality of phrases like this that sicken me to my core.”
Addressing the #MeToo movement – which has seen the likes of Kitti Jones, Salma Hayek, Blake Lively, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie and countless others come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct – Whitmore points out that the situation will not get any better until we address the portrayal of women in the media.
“Away from allegations of rape, and flawed judicial systems, what has really hit me is how women are portrayed in general,” she says, recalling how she was portrayed as “the rumoured love interest” – or, worse still, the “blonde bait in a sequinned dress” during her time on Strictly.
“All this shaming and degrading. In a sense, the #MeToo movement is just the tip of the iceberg,” insists Whitmore.
“How have we sunk to this situation, where women are routinely reduced, and demeaned, in this way? It is impossible to understand, when everything about it is so wrong, so misguided and so vile.”
Whitmore finishes: “I’ve had enough of being trivialised and gossiped about. Women are not playthings – either of men or of the media – and should not be treated as such.”
This article, which was originally published in April 2018, has been reshared as part of our Speak Up initiative.
For one day only on Monday 13 August, Laura Whitmore has taken over stylist.co.uk and transformed it into her very own Speak Up platform – a digital initiative which aims to shine a light on the day’s most important headlines, challenge the status quo, spark debate, encourage conversation and, above all else, champion women’s voices..
For similarly inspiring content, check out Laura Whitmore’s show on BBC Radio 5 Live, which airs on Sundays at 11am.