Nottingham’s LGBTQ+ students share their stories of sexual assault and harassment

Numerous LGBTQ+ students in Nottingham share how they’ve been affected

CW: Discussion of sexual assault

Multiple LGBTQ+ students in Nottingham have recently shared their stories of being sexually harassed and assaulted with The Nottingham Tab.

Some of the perpetrators in these stories are also members of the LGBTQ+ community, while others aren’t.

Sexual violence can happen to anyone and everyone. For many, this goes without saying. But as the Human Rights Campaign notes, queer people rarely talk about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. There’s excessive stigmatisation and many queer survivors develop shame, too.

Of course, just because it isn’t talked about as much doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen that often.

A 2019 report by The Guardian revealed that almost 70 per cent of LGBTQ+ people have faced harassment in the workplace alone. Elsewhere, a survey uncovered that 47 per cent of bisexual men have faced sexual assault other than rape, compared to 21 per cent of straight men.

Dig deeper and you’ll come across a mix of survivors in the community. In his 2019 memoir Over the Top, openly gay Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness detailed his experience with sexual abuse as a child.

You’ll also find accounts of LGBTQ+ people assaulting others in the community. RuPaul’s Drag Race queen Soju has recently been accused of sexually assaulting a number of queer individuals.

Of course, it isn’t just high-profile celebrities who assault or who are assaulted by others.

Jake, bisexual, he/him, 19 years old: ‘I froze and didn’t know what to do’

Jake revealed two experiences of sexual assault, once in May of 2015 by someone he considered a “good friend”.

“He took me onto the roof of the local pool in my hometown, then proceeded to grope me and reach down my trousers to pull my d*ck out to look at it – at which point I pretended I had to go home and left. I didn’t tell anyone about it for almost two years.

“The last time I saw the person that did it I had a panic attack. But that was over a year ago, so I’m not sure what would happen now.”

Jake’s second encounter involved a girl he was casually dating. It happened in June of 2019.

“We were casually making out at her house and I had expressed that I did not want to have sex and did not have a condom. She, however, then decided to pull my trousers and boxers down, and proceeded to have sex with me. I froze and didn’t really know what to do. Again, I didn’t tell anyone until much later, about a month ago.”

James*, he/him, 20 years old: ‘After a while, I started experiencing PTSD symptoms’

James* recounted an experience just over two years ago, when he was in a relationship with someone from his school.

“We were together for about six or seven months, but it started turning violent in the last two or three months until he became violent at a party in front of people – which is when I finally ended things. Long overdue.

“A week later, at an 18th (birthday) party he found out I was at, he arrived and kept trying to talk to me/get my attention by grabbing or groping me. Eventually, he was kicked out and his friend came to find me asking if I would talk to him outside because he was kicking up a fuss. When I went out to talk to him things escalated and resulted in him strangling me while he tried to finger me. When he tried to flip me around so my back was towards him, I was able to get free.

“I didn’t think about it or talk about it for about four weeks afterwards, until I started experiencing PTSD-type symptoms, especially since I saw him a lot around school.”

This anonymous gay man also told The Tab Nottingham about a more recent incident of sexual assault he’d faced.

“I met someone off Tinder a couple of times (in) first year and it started as a consensual hook-up. But I had explained before I wasn’t going all the way with him. But then in person he kept asking persistently and it became less consensual and it resulted in him pinning me, fingering me and then finishing in my mouth.

“After thinking about it and telling a friend I ended up going to a SARC (sexual assault referral centre). And because of the nature of the assault, I have to have a full STI panel, three hep b shots and a month-long course of post-exposure prophylaxis to reduce the risk of HIV.”

Madison*, bisexual, she/they, 20 years old: ‘She was disrespecting my boundaries’

Madison* told the Tab Nottingham about an experience she had in first year at UoN, when she lived in halls.

“We had some people over our block to play beer pong. This girl who nobody really knew was very drunk and was going up to my female friends, getting very up, close and personal and being very complimentary, but crossing a line by how persistent she was being. She would say, ‘You’re so pretty! Would you get with me?’. She kept asking.

“She came to me and asked me if I was gay or bi and I said yes. She was being more persistent with me than my other mates and she was getting right up in my face. She then asked me to go to the bathroom with her. I said no, but again, she was being persistent and started to irritate me so I said okay just so she would stop. She then spoke about her own sexuality. We left the bathroom and she kept asking me again If I would get with her.

“I did feel sorry for her because obviously I understand what it’s like to be confused about your sexuality… but she was disrespecting my boundaries.”

Madison* shared another story. This one involved a former boyfriend when she was 16.

“He was quite emotionally manipulative. He wanted to have sex and I didn’t want to so he would complain and sulk about it and we came to a ‘compromise’ of a blowjob. Afterwards, he gave me the silent treatment because I wasn’t ‘enthusiastic’ while I was doing it.

“Another time, I would be sleeping and he would just lie behind me and put it in and that’s all I can remember. I didn’t realise what all of that actually was until about two years ago.”

Sarah* bisexual/queer woman, she/her, 20 years old: ‘The whole thing made me feel preyed upon’

“One time, I was out clubbing and I met a girl. The whole time we were together in the club there was this guy who wouldn’t leave her alone. He was standing with her, watching us together and kept trying to get close. He told me he was her boyfriend and wanted to have a threesome with us. I aggressively turned him down, but it made me feel immediately unsafe. She told me that she didn’t know who he was at all and that he had been following her around the club all night. That really scared me.

“I was a baby gay back then and I hadn’t had many queer experiences in public. The whole thing just made me feel preyed upon, even though it was a pretty popular club that I thought, generally, had decent clientele. It kind of showed me that we can never really be sure of our safety wherever we go.”

Accessing support

It’s evident from the stories shared that LGBTQ+ people, like everyone else, can face nuanced sexual harassment and assault. Although, in Nottingham, there’s not many LGBTQ+-specific helplines for survivors of sexual violence.

However, Notts LGBT Network offers general support for queer people via phone calls. There’s also domestic and sexual violence helplines based in Nottingham that aren’t identity specific but might be useful, nonetheless. ISAS (Incest and Sexual Abuse Survivors) is a Notts-based organisation that offers services such as therapy and counselling. It’s open to anyone over the age of 16.

There’s also a number of nation-wide LGBTQ+-specific helplines.

It’s also important to remember that as an LGBTQ+ person, your encounter with sexual assault and harassment is valid. Regardless of what’s happened, you have a right to heal and seek the appropriate help. It wasn’t your fault and there are people out there who can help you.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault and/or harassment, please look at the websites and resources below.

Notts SVS Services

Incest and Sexual Abuse Survivors

Notts LGBT Network

Galop – The LGBT+ anti-violence charity

A guide for gay and bisexual men who have been affected by sexual violence

Rape and Sexual Violence Project

Names marked with an (*) are fake names, used on the grounds to preserve anonymity.