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I Was Assaulted At The Theatre Yesterday. This Is What Happened.

This is the full video from the Instagram Live I recorded yesterday, immediately after leaving the theatre. Any responses that seem weird to you are answering questions people were putting in the chat box. 

Harry Potter plays a very important role in my relationship. Not only does my boyfriend look like Harry Potter (from the books), we’re both huge fans of the series, and have spent many a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to them read out in the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry.

I went to see Harry Potter & The Cursed Child last year with my brother. Luckily for me, as is often the case, I somehow managed to significantly bugger up my back about 15 minutes before leaving, impacting my ability to enjoy what was otherwise an absolutely fantastic play.

Because we both love Harry Potter so much, I really wanted to go and see it again with Sebastian. We booked the tickets in April, and have been patiently waiting for the magical day to arrive ever since.

That day was yesterday.

Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I was in the mood to go. I’ve been adjusting to starting work during a flare and was feeling upset and frustrated with my body’s limitations. I almost suggested he take a friend with instead, but I was determined to make the most of our day, seeing the two plays back-to-back and going for a lovely dinner in between.

The theatre is pretty much the only place that I’ve never had a problem with disability access stuff. They’re usually so prepared, kind, and helpful with any request, that getting in and sitting down only took a few minutes. S bought a giant owl, which he named Al, but I prefer to call Rabbi Owlie Owlstein, and a Gryffindor scarf (even though he’s totes a Ravenclaw). I, obviously, am a proud Slytherin.

Hssssss.

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Unfortunately, one thing staff can’t really do much to prepare for is the fact that I’m a tiny human, and having a somewhat, erm, large-headed person in front of me can block literally all but the sides of the stage without a booster cushion, and about a third of the stage, right in the centre, when I’m dangling on my seat with one.

Because of my ribs, I now struggle to constantly shift and strain in order to see, so I asked if we could be moved. One minute before the show started, we were rushed upstairs (well, as fast as my poor painful legs can rush) to the only available seats: right at the back of the Dress Circle with a straight, clear shot of the stage.

I could see, hurrah, in spite of the odd leg popping out, lazily dangling into the aisle. But S doesn’t have the best eyesight in the world, so we moved back down after the first interval to our original seats. I’d already seen the play, and wanted him to enjoy the experience as much as possible. There’s also much better atmosphere in the stalls than stuck at the back of a theatre.

As we made our way back into our seats, a man behind us joked about us finally making it in time. I explained what had happened as we settled back in.

So, heres’s the thing. I totally accept that I’m probably a massive pain in the arse to sit behind in a theatre or cinema. Because my joints randomly fall out and my pain levels, I tend to jiggle around a bit. I always like to warn the person sitting behind me that may happen, so they know I’m not being annoying on purpose. I explained to him that I may move around and that I have dodgy joints. He and the American woman sitting next to him were amused by my phrasing of “dodgy joints”.

Suddenly, he grabs me, hard, by the shoulders, pressing his thumbs into my neck and spine, almost in the way someone would when giving a massage.

I’d already said I have issues with my joints (and had demonstrated a slight shoulder jiggle as I said it).

I froze and completely panicked.

Bear in mind that I literally stress being in a theatre in case someone accidentally knocks into me as the walk past me. An EDS body is a delicate one. A small jolt in the wrong way can cause significant pain and potential damage (and knock-on effects to other parts of the body) which can take months to recover from. This is why I’m so incredibly careful (and obsessive) when I go out in public.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but as soon as he grabbed me, I begged something along the lines of “please, no, stop, seriously”. I know my eyes were wide and my voice was wavering, but I still tried to keep it as light and friendly as possible. It’s funny what being socialised to just de-escalate situations can do when they arise. I know I said no and told him to get off.

He completely ignored me, dug his fingers in harder, and started shaking me.

“No, seriously, this can put me in hospital”.

He took his hands off me. I grabbed my neck and rubbed it, it felt tight and incredibly sore.

He jokingly offered to give me a massage, I forced a smile and declined. He made a joke about Australians (like him) being friendly, I joked back something about “especially towards English people”.

The lights dimmed.

I whispered to S as the music started that the man had grabbed me (he’d been checking his email and hadn’t heard what had been going on).

As the actors appeared on stage, I was embarrassed, frustrated with myself, and more than a little bit shaken up. I was determined to enjoy the second half of the first half of the play, and tell him afterwards that it’s not ok to grab someone without their consent, even if they think it’s friendly. I knew he didn’t think about what he was doing (which, in no way excuses it), and it wasn’t malicious. But I needed to tell him that it was completely unacceptable. I’m not one to keep my mouth shut if I have something on my mind.

About 5-10 minutes later, I’m unsure exactly, my neck fully seized up, pains like fire bolts shot down my arms, and my shoulders felt like they were subluxed partly backwards. I silently burst into tears and ran as quickly as I could out of the theatre.

The staff were amazing. One of the stewards has hypermobility syndrome and understood immediately. More senior members of staff were called, including a a big ex-army security man called John. I was brought a chair, some tissues, and explained, looking up at everyone standing around me in a circle, what happened. At the time, I didn’t even think about it as assault. I knew what he did was wrong, but I was more worried about the physical harm he had done and how this is going to affect me and my life and my job. Because what obviously seemed to be such a small thing for him, is a huge, devastating thing for me.

“Wait. But he shouldn’t have felt it was ok to touch me in the first place. Especially when I told him to get off and he didn’t”.

Turns out, that’s common assault.

I was in so much pain at that point, even though about 5 minutes before it had happened I’d taken some more morphine. I nearly had a panic attack.

The staff explained that it’s up to me what happens, but they have a duty of care to make sure I’m ok. They said that we could call the police, or they could talk to him to tell him off and explain why his behaviour was unacceptable.

I decided to go in and sit back down with S. I just needed the time to pass until the gap between the first two plays. John insisted on walking me back, and stood near me to make sure that I was ok, and felt safe and comfortable sitting in front of him again.

S hadn’t really realised what was happening, and I kept telling him that I’d explain in the interval. It’s hard when there’s something live happening on stage and there are people everywhere. And I’m a big one for theatre etiquette.

I blankly stared at the stage until the lights came up, told Sebastian to grab our things and moved out as quickly as we could. I could see John going up to speak to the man as we made our way out.

Caught up in the crowds, which is scary enough for me as it is, it took a while to make it back to the foyer. I spoke to the staff about my options. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so we left the theatre for a couple of minutes. I recorded an Instagram Live, because I felt that it was important to share what had happened while I was still experiencing it. It was short, but I received amazing support and messages from the people who had managed to catch it. I saved the video (you can watch it at the top of this post) and called my mum and told her what happened, perching on a pub bench, crying.

The security guys outside of the theatre were nearby, and were really kind to me, taking me back inside to talk to the management again. I was asked if I wanted to go back into the second half of the show so the evening wasn’t ruined (of course, in new seats). But there’s no way we’d have been able to enjoy it. I wanted to know if I could talk to the police and make a report without him being charged at that point, so they called up the police to find out.

I just need to say that the staff could not have been better. They made me feel safe, supported and comfortable in what was a really traumatic ideal. I was never alone, unless I asked to be, and they did everything in their power to make sure that I was looked after and ok as I could have possibly been. I don’t know how I can thank them, but I am so incredibly grateful for the wonderfully kind people who were with me yesterday.

The police insisted on sending someone over. We were told that it could take an hour, so we crossed the road to get some food at Polpo. At this point, I could barely lift my arms, and I was in absolute agony. We were both incredibly shaken up, and S was incredibly upset that he hadn’t seen what was going on. It all happened so quickly.  At the restaurant, I seemed to have passed on my habit of stress-eating to him,

You’re welcome, liebling.

As we sat, ate, and tried to calm down a bit and discuss my options, I uploaded the first 60 seconds of the saved Facebook Live video to Instagram.

We headed back to the theatre an hour later, and then I struggled my way up 4 (I think) flights of concrete steps into a back office to talk to the policeman.

I told the him what happened, and he told me that they could file a general crime report and close it, or I could choose to press charges. He’d be arrested, I’d have to go down to the station, file a report, and he could potentially go to prison for several months.

I really didn’t know what to do.

Because here’s the thing. I know he didn’t think that he was doing anything wrong. And I know that’s not the point, but I struggled so hard with whether I could morally send someone to prison for being an entitled, sexist arsehole when there was no harm intended. The fact is, this is one of the biggest issue when it comes to male entitlement: they don’t think what they’re doing is harmful. Take away the physical harm he did. He still did something wrong.

I feel like the policeman was getting a bit annoyed at all of my questions, but this felt like a grey area to me. I wanted to know all my options, in detail, and all the processes involved, and was asking every question I could think of. I wanted to know if there was an option where he could be charged (he admitted that he did it), and something could go on his record, but he wouldn’t have to go to prison. Apparently not. There was no middle ground at all. I wanted to make a statement in case I decided to open up charges, but apparently that’s “disproportional” to do.

The policeman went to talk to him. He was drunk and speaking out. But he did admit that what I said was true.

He then brought him into the room with me (he did say he would only do that if he thought it was safe for me). I’d asked him to bring him in so I could be there when he got his telling off. I wanted to explain why what he’d done was wrong and show him the pain he’d caused me. I thought it would be more affecting than just hearing it from another man.

To be honest, at that point, I almost changed my mind and wanted him “nicked”. He looked like he didn’t care. He rolled his eyes when I said that you couldn’t just touch someone, especially a woman. He said he was “only trying to be friendly and make me feel comfortable”. I snorted, and explained again. The policeman said it in the way of “here in the UK, that’s not considered ok”, which pissed me off. He’s from Australia, it’s not like ‘touching a woman isn’t ok’ should be surprising to him either. He shook his head. I called him out again and explains the impact this has had on me. That I’ve finally gone back to work after years and he could have jeopardised that. That aside from the general, y’know, don’t fucking touch a woman without her consent, the physical damage he has caused me is incredibly traumatic and could be something I’m going to have to suffer with for a while yet.

Oh, and wanna know the best part? After giving him a bit of a dressing down, he apologised to the policeman. Not to me. He had to be told to do that.

I still don’t think he realised he actually did anything wrong, but after going outside and mouthing off, he apparently burst into tears. The policeman thinks he felt bad and learned his lesson. I feel like it’s more that he’s shocked he got called out and in trouble for something he didn’t think was wrong. I, obviously, couldn’t give a flying fuck if he’s sad. I may be wrong. I just hope he truly understood the impact of what he did.

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But should someone get locked up for being a drunk, entitled wanker? I don’t know. And that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to take it any further. I just wanted to go home and go to bed. I find it hard enough to be out anyway. This was getting too much.

I know a lot of people will disagree with my choice, but this is my decision. I don’t know if I regret it, but I don’t think I can justify sending someone to prison for this. I wish there were a middle ground. I want him to be punished, or there to be some outcome, but prison seems like too much. It really does. I’m considering looking it civil options. I want him to know that what he did isn’t ok. I want some kind of recourse. I just don’t know if it’s viable at this point. All I can do is find out. This will be complicated by the fact he doesn’t live in this country.

So, what now? Well, I wrote this because writing helps me to process things, and it’s also something that falls within my purview of “realities of being a disabled woman” and how one disrespectful person doing something they deem to be innocent, can dramatically increase my symptoms in quite a debilitating way.

Otherwise, I don’t know.

I’m in bed, in the dark. I’m upset and angry. I think I’m happy with my decision, but I wish there was more that could have been done. The theatre is offering us a bit of a VIP treatment when we want to return, so I’m going to set that up so we can go back and not let this arsehole ruin Harry Potter for us. I also want to thank the staff in person, because they couldn’t have been better, kinder or more supportive in such a horrible situation.

As for the rest of it, I’m in pain. A lot lot more pain that usual. The neck pain is still there, but seems to have travelled down my back. My shoulders still hurt, a lot, but my lower back and Coccyx is KILLING me to the point I have to be on my side. I have sciatica, and my body just feels like it’s in shock. I’m hoping that resting will help…because physical trauma often sends my body haywire and I really don’t think I can handle an even worse flare up right now.

I took the day off work (which, being my second week, really isn’t ideal), and I’m going to try and get writing again tomorrow. This is such a fab opportunity for me.

I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out on Instagram and Twitter yesterday, and all my friends that messaged me to see if I’m ok. I am, as I said to someone yesterday, shaken but not stirred. I’ll be ok.

So yes, a drunk guy thought he was being friendly. And this is what happened. A shoulder grab and a refusal to let go has caused both emotional, but significant physical pain. I hope he learns. It’s funny what such a small thing can turn into.

This is the second time I’ve had an issue with seeing the play. I may be, as John says, the Cursed Child.

Update: I went to see the GP on Friday for an emergency appointment because my pain levels were through the roof. Turns out he burst a bunch of blood vessels in my neck because he grabbed so hard, and my neck (and as a result pretty much my entire back) have gone into spasm. I can’t sit or lie on my back/bum, but because of my EDS it’s causing significant other problems, including much more frequent subluxations. It makes sense, I guess, tight muscles are pulling out my shoulders. And lying on them doesn’t help. Oh joy.

6 Comments

6 Comments on I Was Assaulted At The Theatre Yesterday. This Is What Happened.

  1. Sandy
    October 19, 2017 at 4:00 pm (1 month ago)

    I totally understand. I understand from the point of view of illness and how one ‘small’ thing can screw you up for months, and I understand about the other stuff, too. You were right to involve the police. How far you go with it depends as much on how much you can handle as on what’s right and wrong. Stay strong. Look after yourself x

    Reply
  2. Jen farrant
    October 19, 2017 at 5:22 pm (1 month ago)

    I’m so sorry to hear all of this Natasha. It’s your choice what you want to do and no one else’s.

    It’s great to hear how supportive the staff were and I truly hope there are no long lasting effects from this

    Reply
  3. Crys
    October 19, 2017 at 7:25 pm (1 month ago)

    I’m sorry that this happened.

    The worst part is, when someone is chronically ill, our bodies can handle things a lot less. What may not hurt the average person at all or as bad can be really harmful to someone with chronic pain and chronic disabilities.

    I hope you recover.

    And yes, you’re totally right that no one has the right to touch a woman without her permission. Or any person, for that matter. But especially a woman.

    Take care. I hope that you’ll not only recover physically, but emotionally from this incident. And I hope you’ll feel better soon.

    Reply
  4. Silvia Logan
    October 20, 2017 at 7:06 pm (1 month ago)

    Natasha, I am so sorry that you got assaulted at the theatre. You did well to call the police because this arsehole was wrong to touch you. He should get his hands off people. You are lucky that you have an excellent staff who are supportive of you.

    Reply
  5. Silvia Logan
    October 20, 2017 at 9:20 pm (1 month ago)

    Natasha, I am so sorry that you were assaulted by this arsehole at the theatre. You did well to call the police. He should be in jail for touching you. He should get his hands off people. You are lucky that you have a good staff to help you.

    Reply
  6. Bethan
    October 22, 2017 at 10:05 am (1 month ago)

    Natasha, I am so deeply sorry you had this experience, itsounds painful both physically and emotionally. I’m really frustrated at the police officer you spoke to for not explaining sentencing to you and thus complicating the decision whether to press charges – sentencing is on a scale based on the individual crime, it would not necessarily have resulted in a custodial sentence, and I can’t help but feel that, based on the way you tell the man in questions response, the experience of being on the stand may have been good for him! Big love and all the support in the world, B x

    Reply

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