Contrary to public perception, SEVs provide essential protections for those that work in them and sometimes more than in normal nightclubs. In the summer of 2020 I had a workplace assault resolved in a court of law. Thanks to my workplace being legal and regulated I was privileged in having the backing of the legal system. If I had been working in a strip club in a nil cap city (where the local authority decide to grant no licences to SEVs) I would not have called the police to report the crime, as I would have put the club and the workers at risk of being exposed and shut down – putting myself and others out of a job.
I documented my experiences the day after the court hearing whilst the details were still fresh in my mind. Hopefully the following will explain why I was pleased with the outcome, and how I got justice through the courts:
Yesterday was a good day for me. An incident that happened 8 months ago, that left me crying and shaken, was resolved through the courts. A 50-year-old man came into the strip club where I work on his stag do. He was arrogant and a bit odd, but he said he had £100 in his pocket so I thought I’d give him 5 minutes to see if I could persuade him to give it to me. Turned out he was arrogant and cheap; he chose a £20 naked lap dance. This happens so many times at work that the men usually become a blur in my head. However, this one was memorable.
I sat him down in a semi-private seat in the communal dance room. I told him to sit up and not slouch, I moved his hands from his lap onto the chair beside his legs. He asked if he could touch during the dance, I replied with a clear answer that no, he could not touch me at all. My 3-minute dance began. I’ve been doing this routine for 14 years and I could time a perfect boiled egg with 2 lap dances, whilst also making the customer believe I am really into him. I find it almost hypnotising; I love dancing and I love feeling gorgeous, and I also love being looked at (on my terms), so this is an enjoyable state.
Sadly this dance ended about 20 seconds in; I did some wiggling, boobs near the face, slipping my dress off, turned my back to the customer for the bum angle, I’m just in my incy-wincy thong now, bent over for a better view of my bum. I was wrenched out of my hazy dance-mode mindset as I could feel something that I didn’t normally feel. It felt like it took a few seconds to realise he’d touched me, though I later saw that on the CCTV I swung around immediately to whack him. He’d poked his finger towards my vagina.
He didn’t have a clue why I was shouting at him, which was infuriating. The security guard stepped in, mostly to stop me. I went to the bar, I was shaking, I had a glass of water. A nice customer I’d spoken to a few times before spotted me in the midst of the crazy drunk crowd and came, with a concerned face, to ask if I was ok. I had thought I should just forget about it, and move on. But I felt horrible. Dirty. And properly violated. And with this man’s kind face looking up at me, I allowed myself to be upset and go with my feelings. I went upstairs to the VIP bar and sat alone and cried.
The manager crouched beside me and asked what I wanted to do; it’s your body he said, call the police if you want. I was a bit worried it might negatively impact the club and its licence if I called the police. I called the police and reported the crime, as I was describing the customer’s appearance, the manager ran upstairs to say the security staff had just chased him and caught him and were detaining him by the door. The police came and they took my statement and said he’d spend the night in the cell. I was very pleased that he would have his stag do ruined. I hoped he’d feel ashamed of what he’d done. It felt I’d shifted that dirty feeling off me, and over to him.
Fast forward to May, and the Crown Court hearing is cancelled due to COVID19. Instead over the next few weeks the brilliant police officer who is leading the case, Jo, negotiated with the CPS, the defense lawyer and some judges, trying to get an acceptable outcome for me. To push it through court the charge was reduced from sexual assault to common assault. Jo and I first rejected this saying we were happy to wait the predicted 18 months until the trial, however, it was decided by people more senior to Jo that ‘common assault’ would be pursued. The man pleaded guilty to common assault, having spent the previous 8 months adamant that he was not guilty of the sexual assault charge.
I wrote a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) in June and a second one after learning that he was being tried for the lesser charge of common assault. This is a statement describing how the crime made me feel, rather than a statement detailing the facts. The new court date to determine his sentence was set, and I decided to attend so that I could read my VPSs; this was a big deal for me and I wanted to be there. No-one has ever forcefully touched my vagina without my consent and I wanted this man to know what his stupid, arrogant, entitled action meant for me.
I was called into court in time to catch the end bit of my lawyer’s speech. I felt fine. I felt empowered. The man was sat behind glass at the back of the court, with a security guard watching him. I was invited to stand in the witness box, the Judge was friendly and respectful. I read both of my VPSs. I read with emotion, anger, describing how in my most vulnerable position this man had jabbed my most private of places, and how dirty that’d made me feel. Being able to tell him in such a sterile, quiet setting was so powerful. I was so pleased that his unthoughtful, nasty action was now public and he was the one being shamed, not me.
I sat down and listened to the defense lawyer drivel on. He was the epitome of a pompous, misogynistic, outdated old man. He described the defendant’s good character by telling the court that he cooks for his new wife and step daughter every night. Can you imagine this being used as an example of a woman’s good character?! When he’d finished belittling my job, the CCTV evidence and saying how sad it was that this man’s marriage had almost been cancelled, and his poor wife would’ve had her job affected if he’d been found guilty of sexual assault; my heart bled. Then the Judge’s poker face vanished.
‘Stand up Mr F’, instructed the Judge, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself’ he continued. The Judge’s summing up was worth all the stress of the run-up to the hearing. He gave the man a professional telling off, it was wonderful to see. The Judge said that because I was in such a vulnerable position when he assaulted me he would convict him of ‘assault by beating’ (a common assault where violence is used). He fined him and awarded me compensation. Even if I’d just witnessed the Judge telling him off, that would’ve been justice done. It felt right – this man treated me like an object, he didn’t for one second consider my feelings, and here he was, being humiliated and made to feel small, convicted of a crime.
From my first call to the police, to the way the case was handled by the police, the victim support, the CPS, my lawyer and the Judge, it had a positive air about it. I called the police about 6 years ago to report voyeurism (a man had secretly filmed me during a lap dance), and I had to make an official complaint about how the police weren’t listening to me before it was taken seriously. This time was different. I believe this is the result of the #metoo movement that has made it ok for women to not be ok with being touched non-consensually (among other things, of course). I was especially impressed as, even with my job as a stripper, the system and the switched-on professionals I was lucky enough to have dealing with the situation took me seriously and applied the law.
Assaults like this happen in normal nightclubs all the time but I wonder if the victim would receive the careful attention from management and security staff that I did in this case. And if this had been an underground strip club that I’d been working at, none of this would have been available to me. Working in strip clubs that do not have SEV licences is commonplace across the UK and provides workplaces for many strippers; however these clubs are not regulated as strictly as SEVs and are not usually required to have the high level of security, CCTV or even worker’s rights. Calling the police to an assault is not a viable option in non-SEV clubs, unless you want to jeopardise your workplace for yourself and your colleagues. So not only are you more at risk of assault whilst at work (fewer security staff, unmonitored CCTV etc.), you are unlikely to access legal recourse if you are a victim of violence. For me, having my experience be the number-one focus of the legal system felt right, and gave me a sense that justice was done.