Women in Bristol view sexual assault as a "normal" part of their night out in bars and nightclubs in the city. A survey by Avon and Somerset Police found 88% of revellers have been victim of sexual assault in a bar, pub or club in Bristol with many repeat victims.
Officers were told how one of the women they spoke with experienced a man putting his hand down her underwear whilst she was standing at the bar. Another woman said she has been targeted by touching on several occasions when out in town.
One victim said: "I was once grabbed by a man and when I confronted him to say it wasn't okay he got aggressive towards me. You expect this sort of behaviour now; it happens so frequently I feel like I should just shrug it off and walk on. At times it leaves you feeling quite demoralised, but it's not okay and we shouldn't just accept it because it's common behaviour."
Only three people out of 50 victims reported the offences and police are encouraging revellers to log the inappropriate behaviour.
Superintendent Marie Wright said: "If you've been a victim of sexual assault please tell someone. It doesn't have to be us, you can talk to bar staff who will support you and take action against the person or people who assaulted you.
"We are working closely with licensed premises to improve reporting procedures and staff awareness and confidence to help customers who report assault and our message is clear, nobody has the right to touch people without their consent. This is a serious issue and we will believe you."
A number of bars said they are working to make the city safer. Jamie Morris, manager at OMG - "the South West's busiest and biggest gay venue" - said: "We are deeply saddened to hear the extent of this issue in Bristol, but we want to tackle it head-on and any incidents which occur in our venue will be dealt with by an appropriate measure.
"We are working alongside the police to stamp out sexual assaults, support victims and report perpetrators. The safety of our customers is always our priority and we want them to have the freedom enjoy a great night out without feeling victimised."
Earlier this year, figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed sex offences were the highest since records began. In the year ending March 2016 there were 106,098 sexual offences recorded by the police.
As well as improvements in recording practices, the spike is thought to reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes, including non-recent victims.
Avon and Somerset advice for reporting sexual assault in pubs and clubs
- Remove yourself from any dangerous or uncomfortable situation as quickly as possible
- Find a member of staff and tell them about the incident, describing the perpetrator(s) if you can
- Ensure an incident report is completed. Procedures vary between venues but it's important relevant information is logged
- Notify the police if you feel comfortable to do so or ask the venue for support to do this. We will always listen and believe you
- If you have been impacted by sexual assault, you can reach out to organisations such as The Bridge for support