After being groped at a music festival in New Zealand, Madeline Anello-Fitzmiller has an important message for both victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment.
Reveller, Giann Reece, told UNILAD she was taking a video of the site and incidentally filmed a man as he grabbed Anello-Fitzmiller’s breast at the Rhythm & Vines festival in Gisborne, on New Zealand’s North Island.
Reece filmed the assault, which left the perve regretting his actions:
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As you can see in the footage, American-born Anello-Kitzmiller, retaliated to the assault by punching the perpetrator repeatedly before walking away.
Anello-Fitzmiller, after receiving much abuse online for her actions, was subsequently embroiled in a debate regarding sexual harassment and women’s rights.
You can watch what she has to say in the footage below:
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Madeline explained ‘every negative commentator is overpowered tenfold by activists’:
I am incredibly humbled by all the love and support I have received from all over the world.
It’s an amazing feeling knowing thousands of people out there are fighting back against sexual harassment and making their voices heard, men and women alike.
She recalled how the festival had actively promoted nudity through the ‘glitter tits’ stalls set up along with a number of naked water slide events and vowed to never change her actions – or what she wears – for fear of harassment.
Madeline pointed out the hypocrisy, saying:
I saw plenty of naked men that day who were getting absolutely no harassment for being naked…
The difference is women have been over-sexualised for way too long and it needs to stop.
UNILAD spoke to Madeline – who claims she has ‘thick skin‘ – and said she was physically unharmed by the incident and is recovering from an otherwise great New Year’s Eve festival.
Madeline recalled the incident, explaining her actions:
What happened is, he came up behind me and cupped my breast and ran away, seemingly like he’d done it to show off to his friends.
I was at a bar fully clothed a couple months ago and someone grabbed me in a similar way and all the men and women around me instantly targeted him and he was thrown out of the club in less than five minutes.
I swore to myself, the next person who did that, I would fight back – which is exactly what happened in the video.
Reece told UNILAD the man’s behaviour was ‘ridiculous’, adding:
[The pair] walked off and then later came back and her hand had been bandaged from hitting him so hard!
I can’t believe men think they’ve a right to touch a woman’s body just because of what she’s wearing!
It’s very ignorant and close-minded of him. I think he was a pig, honestly.
Everyone has a body and women and men alike should be able to wear whatever they want without the threat of being groped!
If men cannot control themselves then it’s them who should change, not us.
The young man, who’s known to Madeline but remains unidentified, appeared to be unharmed and made no attempt to fight back against the revenge attack.
Now-deleted footage of the incident was shared online and has since garnered thousands of views, as well as a divided opinion over who was in the wrong.
Hundreds of commenters quickly blamed the topless woman and accused Anello-Kitzmiller of ‘asking for it’ due to her exposed breasts, in a wildly archaic display of classic sexism.
Despite receiving some backlash for defending her body, Madeline added:
I’m proud of myself and grateful for the positive support but disappointed nobody around him reacted or thought to stop him.
I hope women feel empowered to stick up for themselves, because sometimes nobody else will.
Women have been treated as objects for so long and I’m just tired of the harassment and double standards, so I’m glad the video was posted because it’s important for other women to see they can stick up for themselves.
I had the best time at that festival and this accident was merely a bump in the road – I didn’t cover up afterwards and stayed out all night.
I hope this inspires people to speak openly about the importance of equality as well as understand just how unfortunately normalised sexual harassment and assault has become.
Reece (pictured above) told UNILAD those attitudes were present on the festival site and not just held by sexist keyboard warriors, saying ‘women were screaming at her to put a top on’.
Observers seem unable to recognise the double standards at play here, whereby it’s supposedly socially acceptable for men to walk around topless at a hot, sunny music festival, but because female breasts have been sexualised through years of male-dominated narratives, they’re not deserving of the same privilege.
This, despite female breasts having a genuine biological purpose, not demonstrated by otherwise useless male nipples.
Madeline, who attended the festival with boyfriend, Max Ashworth, added:
Many people have said I was ‘asking for it’ but the fact is, I’ve been groped in bars, in the city and at parties, while fully clothed.
The problem is not what women are wearing but how men feel they are entitled to someone’s body without their consent.
We all have bodies and we all use them the same way and nobody should ever have to feel ashamed of theirs. We were born naked.
Reece stated, ‘Women tearing other women down is an ugly thing’, adding:
She felt empowered to not put a shirt on! She’s a badass from America who wasn’t taking sh*t.
I’m sure she didn’t mind us looking because she looked amazing, but to actually touch her is just madness!
The iconic New Year’s Eve Rhythm and Vines festival saw some 20,000 people descend on Waiohika Estate for the three-day event and Madeline is adamant the experience didn’t dampen her spirits.
2017 was a year in which some had to readjust their definition of acceptable behaviour and sexual harrassment, in workplaces across the land.
Amid the Weinstein scandal, in which the disgraced movie mogul was accused of sexual misdemeanours including rape by over 40 women, it seems we’ve a long way to go to make men and women alike feel safe from harassment outside the confines of workplace environments too.
Almost two thirds of women (63 per cent) and 26 per cent of men aged 18-24 who drink in bars, clubs or pubs, reported being on the receiving end of unwanted sexual harassment, according to statistics from Drinkaware.
We must do more to make sure people feel safe from groping and unwanted sexualisation in all situations.
Young people feel disgusted and upset when we see sexual harassment on social media, retweeting the shocking stories shared by friends and friends of friends as part of the ‘Me Too’ campaign.
Yet Drinkaware say we need to learn to do the same in real life, in real time, when we’re the bystanders to sexual harassment, wherever that may be.
By stepping in to support the person being targeted, we give that person a chance to get out of the situation and send a message to the perpetrator how the behaviour is unacceptable.
Whether you agree with Anello-Kitzmiller’s means of retaliation – and while two assaults certainly do not make a right – you can be sure the man in question will not be sexually violating anyone at a festival anytime soon.
Madeline confirmed the incident is not a legal matter and has not been reported to the authorities, explaining the backlash has been ‘a bit wild and overwhelming but I know it will blow over’.
If you, or someone you know, has been affected by sexual harassment or any sort of sexual harm, help and support is available. Victim Support is an independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime.
They offer free, confidential help to anyone affected by sexual harassment. Call 0808 1689 111 or go to www.victimsupport.org.uk for advice.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.