Boys tagging mates in confessions about sexual harassment is silencing victims

‘It completely invalidates the girls making the posts’


Male students are tagging their friends in posts about sexual harassment in the Facebook group ‘Overheard at Cardiff University’  and ‘Cardiff confessions’ as if it’s a joke. And to make it worse, it’s been going on for a long time, and it’s not just in Cardiff.

Many girls from different universities have come forward to say they feel unsafe opening up with their experiences of sexual harassment, whether that be caused by laddish comments on social media, the way their university deals with the issue, or the stigma that circulates the subject.

In St Andrew’s and other Scottish unis, girls are creating Instagram accounts to report sexual assault at their uni.

It’s so clear how prevalent this problem is, and so many girls already feel unsafe speaking to their university about it. People are looking for support, and somewhere to share their experiences – not to be put down by stupid and childish comments that achieve absolutely nothing for the person who commented, and especially not the girl who wrote the post.

Nobody should be made to feel like their problem isn’t serious because some lads wanted a quick laugh with their mates.

It’s time to speak up and call them out because what they’re doing is wrong, and it is making women feel like their problem is small and insignificant.

The problem is NOT small or insignificant

While to them it may seem like a lighthearted joke, these boys forget that they are not that girl who lives in fear every day.

They are not that woman who looks behind her every time she’s alone because she’s afraid of having a man chase her down a street.

They’re not made to feel insignificant. Made to feel like their experience can be left in the past and never be spoken about again. Expected to return to a completely normal life and never live in fear.

Everyone wishes it could be that simple but it isn’t, and it doesn’t help that some people think it’s laughing matter. We are made to feel like this isn’t a serious issue but, in fact, it’s a pressing issue affecting women and girls of all ages globally.

This is risking women not coming forward

How can a university, a workplace, or anyone expect a woman to feel safe to come forward about their experience with sexual harassment or assault when laddish comments on their posts invalidates their experiences?

Of course not all comments are of this nature, but there are a significant number of comments like it, and it only takes one nasty comment to cause damage to self-esteem and validity.

That single comment could have a major affect on the girl who shared her experience. She’ll be made to feel like nobody cares about what she’s gone through, or that it isn’t serious. Which could then lead to her not taking her problem forward.

“I really don’t see what’s funny about girls getting harassed though, I don’t understand the need for it”, one girl told The Cardiff Tab. “They are literally laughing at girls who fear being murdered or assaulted. They think our fear is a joke, they have no idea what it feels like”, another said.

They really don’t, or at least it comes across like this with these laddish comments, and that’s the issue. They go ahead and choose to make a laugh out of it, and make girls feel as if their problem is nothing concerning and can be pushed aside.

It’s time to look from her perspective

We feel like we’re not being taken seriously when we’re opening up about something traumatic. It’s extremely belittling for the person who initially created the post, because these men are making insensitive jokes that aren’t funny to anyone but themselves. In turn, they cause people to feel their experiences are invalid and unimportant.

How do people expect more of us to talk about experiences like this when our fears of walking home alone are made to feel like a joke? “They think our fear is a joke. They have no idea what it feels like”, one Cardiff student told The Cardiff Tab.

It’s a total insult to anyone who has ever experienced assault. How can someone make a person feel as if their experience with sexual assault/harassment isn’t valid or serious? Their crippling fear is practically being stood on and crushed by a joke that got two likes from their mates. How can they even find that funny? Seriously?

“As a victim of sexual assault/harassment I know how hard it can feel to finally speak about what has happened, to then have your feelings completely disregarded and invalidated on a public platform for everyone to see is heartbreaking”, The Cardiff Tab were told. “It’s just another example of how men live an easier life than women and don’t need to fear for their safety.”

As a woman, I’m always terrified walking home alone whether that be in broad daylight or in total darkness after a night out. Having someone belittle your fear and make a joke out of it is not lighthearted or just a “laugh”, it’s actually incredibly insensitive and disgusting. In that moment you may think it’s a joke, but when your girlfriend or best female friend approaches you and tells you she’s been sexually assaulted, is that a joke to you then? Tell your female lecturers, tell your sisters, your course mates, your flatmates. Won’t seem like a joke then, will it?

“If you make these comments, say it with your chest and go tell your mum that”, one Cardiff girl said.

People constantly stress that it can’t be hard for a woman to report a sexual assault, but then will go on a post and joke that their mate was the one who assaulted her, commenting things like “leave them alone mate they don’t want to talk to you.” Some how this is funny, making a joke that your friend sexually harassed this woman, the same woman who just had the confidence to publicly post about her recent experience with a sexual harassment.

Women are made to feel less than their experience, as if it’s something we can just shrug off

Women often feel they can’t come forward, and often keep that experience to themselves for years. But then we get judged for not saying anything sooner?

We’re made to feel embarrassed about it and, quite frankly, I’ve had enough and so have many others.

Already, girls feel so unsafe coming forward. These posts on Overheard can act as a warning, a place to share experiences and trust people to be respectful. They’re there so people can search for support and help. However, this laddish behaviour is ruining them.

As one female student told The Cardiff Tab: “They should try and place themselves in the situation of not being able to walk in broad daylight anymore without worrying what may happen to them.”

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Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Male Cardiff students jokingly tag mates in overheard posts about harassment 

• We’re making a groupchat so girls in Cardiff can get home safely after a night out 

• ‘This voicing was a means to heal’: We spoke to the student behind St Andrews Survivors