By: Girl Code Theatre
Brighton is one of the most accepting and culturally diverse cities in the United Kingdom. It draws in well educated and creative people from all walks of life, so why does this city still have a problem with sexual harassment and assault? This is the question Maddie Ross, the director and writer of this insightful documentary, is trying to get to the bottom of, as well as talking to key groups about what should be done to combat sexism, which is rife on our streets, help the survivors and make improvements, both now and for the future.
Ross shares the powerful statements of women in Brighton and Hove who have experienced harassment in 2020, during the first lockdown, through the use of interviews, anonymous declarations and verbatim theatre testimony. See also chats to several activists, action groups and the police to delve further into the important topic
According to local community activists, Anti-Harassment Group, 281 public sexual assaults were reported in Brighton in 2019, and with only an estimated nineteen percent of cases being reported, that’s a sobering figure to contemplate.
Testimonies from a handful of Brighton based women are dotted throughout the piece and it is depressingly not shocking to hear about the incidences of predatory behaviour. One witness is subject to a man masturbating near her on the nudist beach, others are followed, touched without permission and filmed as they sunbathe. The documentary explains that it is angry men, an overly permissive society, misogynistic culture, a failing and inadequate justice system that allows these offences to perpetuate. No female friendship group will be unaffected by this menacing behaviour.
Divided into easy to follow chapters the film continues and questions “What needs to changed?” Contributors discuss the vital need of early intervention; teaching consent and appropriate behaviour from an early age. Education about how males’ actions can appear threatening if they do not understand how to be in public spaces, with continued respect, should be at the forefront of reform.
The middle of the film has a short 1920’s public information style segment about how a man should behave towards the object of his desire. This has a strong message while taking a humorous approach.
It’s sad, but inevitable, to learn that all the survivors in the documentary have felt they have had to change their behaviour because of their encounters with men. Some have changed the way they dress, some don’t walk home alone anymore and all the women spoken to have changed their routines in some way.
As the feature continues, a female Sussex Police office highlights the reporting process and encourages everyone who has had a bad experience, to report sexual assault of any kind. Interesting contributions from Nina Burrowes, from the Consent Collective, as well as the Anti-Harassment Club, begin to develop a roadmap of what needs to be done to stop harassment, empower women and educate men about their actions, as well as show what women and men can do to be better allies to those affected.
This entirely female lead piece of film making is an excellent and candid look at the endemic problem of sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse; essential viewing for all.
Reviewed on 12th June