"Was it my fault? Was it what I was wearing?"
My friends and I were at a club in central London. We were underage, excitable and tipsy from our bottles of cheap cider hidden under our coats on the long train ride into the city. Downstairs on the sticky dancefloor we pretended we were grown up, swinging our bodies around in time to pulsating hip hop beats and pushing our hands up into the laser lights over our heads. A man grabbed my hand in the darkness. I don't remember his face. I just remember his huge hands dragging me across the floor. I pulled away with nervous laughter and turned back to my friends once, then twice as he grabbed at me again. Then, as I turned away again, I felt a huge hand around my throat, pressing down hard. I gasped for air and moved backwards. His arms snaked around me. I was rooted to the spot, frozen as he ground himself on my back, holding me hard by the neck. It could have been seconds, or minutes, but it felt like hours until my friends found me in the crowd and dragged me away. The next day I looked in the mirror. A bruise in the shape of a handprint was developing in bright purple and yellow across my neck and chest. I was so ashamed. Was it my fault? Was it what I was wearing? Now I would have fought him off, shouted in his face and raged at being treated like that. But when you're young and you don't know how to react, you turn your doubt and shame upon yourself. I hope we teach our children to know this behaviour is unacceptable, to fight back, and to speak up.