This is an open letter from a young woman recalling a night out earlier this year at the nightclub owned by Jared O’Mara in Sheffield:
“It was on the night of Sunday 5th March (or rather the early hours of the 6th March) in West Street Live. It being Sunday night there weren’t many places open, but some of the younger members of the group suggested West Street Live. We had a few more drinks, and hit the dancefloor. And it was fun, in a tacky kind of way. To the best of my knowledge there are no cloak rooms in West Street Live and I was paying for most of the evening as a thank you to everyone. So I’d taken a considerable amount of money out with me, and I wanted to keep an eye on my belongings without being that 80s cliche of a woman of a certain age dancing around her handbag. So I’d folded my coat up, and put it at the side of the dancefloor. There were no signs saying “don’t leave belongings here” and, anyway, it was a fairly quiet night so I figured they’d be safe. And they were, until you walked across the floor, took one look at my coat, and kicked it. You didn’t “move it with your foot” as you later claimed to one of my friends, you very deliberately kicked it.
I had no idea who you were – the bouncers later shouted that you were the owner – but I ran across to my belongings to check they were ok (they weren’t) and to see whether anything had fallen out of my pockets. I asked you what you were doing, and why you’d done that. You took one look at me and, without speaking, called over the bouncers. You didn’t even have the common decency to speak to me, and I will never, ever forget that sheer arrogance and contempt in your expression that night.
Now I work in the licenced trade, and I know that the minute the bouncers get called over, someone is going to get thrown out. Fair enough, that’s your call – you don’t need a reason to throw someone out of your premises. At this stage, one of my friends came across to find out what was happening. He put his hand on my arm, and said something along the lines of “Come on, it’s not worth it”. At this point, your bouncers grabbed him, and grabbed me, and one of them hit me in the face. One of my other friends then asked one of the bouncers who had removed himself from the fray why we were being thrown out. He said he had no idea. You’ll remember her – she’s the one you denied ever having met, and said “I wouldn’t touch you with a manky woman’s cock, you ugly bitch”.
While we were stood outside phoning the police to report the behaviour of you and your bouncers, one of your bouncers kept repeatedly shouting across at us “He says he’s never f*cking met you, and he wouldn’t f*cking touch you you ugly bitch.”
We were confused about this at the time, and couldn’t figure out why. We thought maybe you were embarrassed about the fact that she’d turned you down, and you didn’t want your friends to know about it. We moved on and told the police that we didn’t want to take things any further than them talking to West Street Live about their behaviour (which to the best of my knowledge they did) – at the time we thought that you were just an arrogant, contemptuous club owner and, after all, West Street Live does anecdotally have a reputation for picking fights with customers.
My black eye faded after a week or so, and while I was waiting for it to do so I joined the legions of women who cover up their bruises on a daily basis. So when I heard that you’d be elected, my first thought was surprise. We had a bit of a laugh about it in the pub (“Guess who the new MP for Sheffield Hallam is! Remember that wazzock who had us thrown out of West Street Live by his bouncers, and they gave me a black eye?”). And then that Saturday morning, when someone alerted me to the rumours about you on the internet, and that song … I felt physically sick. And the arrogance and the contempt suddenly made more sense. Did you refuse to speak to me because I was a woman, and you don’t like being challenged by women? Did you deny ever having met my friend because she turned you down and challenged you? Do you think that women should be “put in their place” by whatever means necessary, even if this means calling in people who are considerably stronger to do so?
It’s been over a month now, and you have still never acknowledged that your past behaviour might possibly be ever so slightly misogynistic. For my own part, the negativity and the memories were making me sick. So at the pub we’re trying to do something positive by raising money for Women’s Aid and Refuge, who both offer vital services to survivors of abuse. Maybe you should talk to them about how unironic a song about domestic violence is.”
This wasn’t 15 years ago, it was this year…