The Oxford Student have been informed that male security staff at the Plush Lounge, Oxford’s LGBTQ+ nightclub, have been accused of assaulting two female customers, as well as, in another incident, failing to remove reported sex attackers from the venue. Two of these claims resulted in initial police involvement, though no charges were made against the security staff.
The Oxford Student has spoken to some of the alleged victims.
A female undergraduate was attending a college bop held at Plush this Michaelmas. According to the information she provided, an incident occurred at closing time; she was kissing another woman at the back of the venue when she was approached by a bouncer who “pushed” them off each other and told them that it was “time to go”. She claims: “He didn’t give me chance to leave; he just got his hands and put them on me, really pushing me down”. The student described that, despite telling him that she was “leaving” and repeatedly asking him to remove his hands, she was dragged from the service area past the toilets. She claims that “three more times I said ‘get your hands off me’ … he just applied more force; the more I was upset, the more force he put on me”. She went on to claim that near the exit, another bouncer entered the altercation and also began holding her down, eventually pushing her up the steps leading out of the venue. The student described being comforted by her friends outside the club and returning to speak to other security staff, but felt that they were acting “like it [the alleged incident] never happened”.
In a separate accusation, a married Oxford resident described an alleged incident of violence against her which occurred in Trinity 2019. She described the alleged incident occurring when she went to leave the club but had misplaced her cloakroom ticket and was allegedly told to “either leave without it and arrange a collection or to wait until the end of the night.” Her husband, who was also present, believes the staff had “become quite aggressive towards her”. When the couple requested to speak to the manager, they describe an argument where a group of security were also present; it was at this point that she accuses Plush security of the following: “I turned and did say that it hurt and please do not do that again as I am already leaving … All of a sudden, my arms were pulled back behind me and I was being lifted off the ground … I begged him to let me go as I have anxiety. He just grabbed my arms harder at this point”. The alleged incident concluded in a statement to the Police provided by the couple, and photographs taken of the residents’ arms. According to the resident, her husband and his male friend were not touched by the security staff: according to the couple, subsequent attempts to contact the manager to complain about the situation – and reclaim her coat – were met with no reply.
Another woman told The OxStu that, while on a night out with her co-workers in Michaelmas, her and her friend were sexually assaulted by two men in the club. “Incredibly distraught”, she reported the incident to male security staff and was told that both men had been removed. However, according to the woman, later that night both men were seen still inside the club and subsequently are accused of continuing to harass the woman and her friend. They told the OxStu that, when leaving the club, they saw the security staff – to whom the attackers had been reported – chatting and laughing with the accused men, described as though they might have been “good friends”: “they [the bouncers] literally shook hands with them [the men]”. After exiting Plush, the police were called and the women initially reported both the attackers and the Plush bouncers to the police. The women were later informed that one of the men was registered on the Police National Database; a police report was eventually filed against only the two men.
The women who spoke to The Oxford Student described experiencing significant psychological trauma resulting from the violence they experienced: one woman stated that “I’m scared every time I walk past Plush, even in the day”.
When contacted for comment, the Plush Lounge stated that: “Plush Oxford is committed to the safety of all its staff and patrons and provides extensive guidance and training to its security team to ensure that any issues are dealt with promptly and appropriately. The venue also maintains extensive fixed CCTV and body cameras which provide crucial context and information in any investigation. All complaints are fully investigated, and Plush works closely with Thames Valley Police on any matters that are referred to them.
As a matter of policy, and out of respect for any individual(s) who may be involved, Plush does not comment publicly on any specific incident. Plush Oxford continues to work closely with representatives from the LGBTQ+ community (including societies within the universities, and otherwise) to ensure they both understand the challenges the venue sometimes faces, and are heard as they make suggestions to ensure the venue continuously improves the safety of all its staff and patrons.”
It is unknown whether Plush believe that there is an issue with sexism amongst their bouncers, or if they will acknowledge women’s individual experiences of violence at the venue.
Image credit: Plush Lounge, Alex Haveron-Jones