FED UP after years of being groped and touched as the recipients of unwanted male attention in Newcastle night spots, two young women are taking a stand against indecent assault. Something they claim is occurring with such frequency it has become “normal”.
Georgia Mueck, 23, and Luci Regan, 21, have created a Facebook page where others can come forward and register their experiences in venues around Newcastle.
Within days of the page going live more than 100 women had made shocking claims about their experiences in several Newcastle late-night venues by filling out a confidential form posted on the page. Most of the respondents are aged between 18 and 24.
The Newcastle Herald has seen some of the responses, which include incidences of groping to the breasts, bottom and genitals.
Other women have reported being pulled onto the laps of strangers, pushed against walls and kissed, having their dresses and skirts pulled up, bras unfastened, grabbed forcefully, being digitally penetrated on the dance floor, having their drinks spiked and nipples flicked.
Women reported being abused, having their hair pulled, drinks poured over their heads and spat on when asking the offender to stop.
Some respondents said venues had failed to take appropriate action, or ignored their reports entirely, when they had complained.
“The security guards within Newcastle’s nightlife industry are extremely ineffective at handling anything like this, if you were to approach a guard about this they would most likely kick you out,” one respondent said.
One respondent said she “always expects it to happen” when she goes out and many said they no longer went to late-night venues in Newcastle because of concerns for their personal safety.
Ms Mueck said the problem in Newcastle was so big many young women going out at night now expected to be sexually harassed.
“If it’s a crowded place there is almost a 100 per cent chance you are going to be groped, felt-up,” she said.
While it was far from the worst experience Ms Mueck has had in Newcastle late night venues, the tipping point came in the early hours of July 6 at The Argyle House.
“Some guy sitting behind me reached over and grabbed my arse,” Ms Mueck said.
In CCTV footage shown to the Herald by the venue a young man is seen reaching out and touching Ms Mueck on the bottom.
Ms Mueck reported the matter to a RSA marshal who passed her table a few minutes later.
However, because she could not identify who had touched her, no formal action was taken.
The Argyle House operations manager, Angus Harper, acknowledged the incident occurred in the night spot.
He said the problem of women being “sexually harassed” in venues across Newcastle was “widespread”.
“We do acknowledge the issue occurred, there are protocols in place for incidences such as this one for action to be taken,” Mr Harper said.
“It could have been handled more appropriately … the response was incorrect.”
Mr Harper blamed the short delay between when the incident occurred and when it was reported, and the fact Ms Mueck could not identify the offender for the breakdown in the venue’s protocols.
Ms Mueck said she was not interested in singling out one venue, because the problem occurred routinely in other late-night venues as well.
Nor was she interested in seeing the alleged offender charged.
“What we want is cultural change,” she said.
“We want them to know this is not on.”
The Argyle House is taking the matter seriously. All staff have been summonsed to a meeting on Tuesday.
“Everyone is going to be there, this issue will obviously be raised,” Mr Harper said.
“The importance of patrons safety and well-being, ultimately their happiness and comfort within the venue will be stressed.
“When you go out you want to feel safe and not be looking over your shoulder the whole time.”
The Argyle House had submitted all footage and relevant information from the incident to police and said it was committed to supporting Ms Mueck in whatever course of action she chose.
The establishment wanted to take leadership on the issue and said venues throughout the city needed to unite and tackle the problem together.
“We will be in touch with other venues around Newcastle,” Mr Harper said.
“This is an issue which has snowballed and needs to be dealt with appropriately.”
Newcastle police Acting Detective Inspector Scott Wheeler said anyone who experienced any form of sexual violence should “remove themselves from the situation, if possible, and notify authorities”.
“There is no excuse for this type of behaviour and it won’t be tolerated at any time,” Detective Inspector Wheeler said.
“Many people aren’t aware that any form of unwanted sexual contact is sexual violence and it’s a crime.
“The key word is unwanted – it can include touching through to sexual assault.”
He urged women to contact police if they experienced unwanted sexual contact.
“Our priority is always the health and well-being of victims, but it’s only when we know what’s happening that we can help.”
If it’s a crowded place there is almost a 100 per cent chance you are going to be groped, felt up. We want them to know this is not on.