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Hugging? Ask First-Don’t Assume

 In Campaigns, News

It is hard to believe that only a year ago most of us were huddled around our screens listening for the latest news over the pandemic.  It seemed that there was no end in sight.  Fast forward a year and we have been told that from 17 May we will be allowed to hug again.*

Yes, after a year of social distancing, it is not surprising that so many people are looking forward to the time when hugging is finally allowed.  Freedom – even if it is one where we still have to calculate risk.

And we don’t want to put a dampener on things… but for some people this will be a real struggle. Some of us have never identified as being ‘huggy.’  Others will have got used to having their own space and that ease of being able to move around without hassle.  Where stats show that around four-fifths of young women have been sexually harassed, the imminent hug-fest that is being mentioned by some is not a comfortable thought.  For survivors of sexual violence, things can be extra hard.

Claire** is a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual violence.  Her experience of the lockdowns has been mixed.  Even though she was single, there was a time of making peace with what was going on.  ‘When home has not always been a safe space, it was very hard to be there all day.’

But outdoors she managed to find her own way and claim her own space.  ‘I felt I could move around unhindered.  When someone stood too close to me in a queue I would turn around and say loudly “you need to stand right back” and they would.  I’ve never had so much power.  I have never been listened to in that way.’

Moving on a year, people have become more used to being on their own.  And while many of us will have a list of well-thought-out people we want to hug first, the fact is many of us have also felt what it is like to have our own protected space.  We have also realised that it is okay to assert our space – even if it was covid-enabled.

And this is where our issue is.  Because, the right to assert our own space and feel safe in it should not have needed a global pandemic to start.  It should have been a given.  A woman should be able to walk outdoors without being assaulted.  A child should be able to walk to school without being whistled at from a car.  A man should be able to choose who he accepts a hug from.

And this is where consent is important.  Not just consent when being sexually intimate but actually in the daily to and fro of life.  And yes, people should ask us if we want a hug, not just because of covid but because they are asking to touch our bodies over which we have control.

People have started sharing on social media messages that ‘just because we can hug, doesn’t mean I want to.’  And after a year of finding different ways of showing affection to one another it is really important that we all ask first and don’t assume.  This can be done in so many ways, ‘asking do you want a hug?’ and respecting the answer is not that hard.  Offering ‘it’s okay if you don’t want to…’ will show that you really are open to being told ‘no’.

When meeting up with friends you might want to discuss it first.  You might want to only hug family for the time being or a couple of close friends.  You might want to hug people but wait until you have been vaccinated first.  Or you might want to show you care in other ways, making a heart shape with your hands, bringing cakes to a picnic, sending a card, the choice is yours.

We have created some social media posts to help promote the idea of asking first, which would be great if you could share.  You can also use them to start a discussion with those you are close to or take a screenshot to store on your phone, just in case.

However the next stage of lockdown unfolds for you we hope it goes well.  If you need support with setting boundaries or to talk about consent or other issues, we are here for you.


*This article reflects changes happening in England correct at the time of publication. Please do ensure you follow the up-to-date rules wherever you are.

**Name has been changed to protect identity.

Not everyone will want to hug on May 17th. Ask First - Don't Assume'

Not everyone will want to hug on May 17th. Ask First – Don’t Assume

Not everyone will want to hug on May 17th. Ask First - Don't Assume'

Not everyone will want to hug on May 17th. Ask First – Don’t Assume

Some people really like a hug. But not me... not just yet

Some people really like a hug. But not me… not just yet

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