Emily Atack has opened up about the online sexual harassment she has experienced as she admits it feels like she is being “sexually assaulted hundreds of times a day”.
Her words come ahead of the launch of her BBC Two documentary, Emily Atack: Asking For It?, where she delves into the online abuse she is subjected to on social media everyday. Men send her anything from unsolicited images of their genitals, to “graphic” descriptions of what they would like to do to her, to open threats of rape and murder.
One such message came from a man, who wrote on Twitter that he would “cut [her] open, drink [her] blood, then rape [her] and chop [her] body up.” The 33-year-old TV presenter, comedian and actress told The Radio Times that this type of relentless harassment has left her so “terrified” that whenever she hears a sound during the night, she fears she is “about to be raped and killed”.
Ms Atack has also spoken about how sexual harassment can lead to self-blame, telling The Times that the onslaught of messages leaves her feeling “lonely, disgusted, embarassed, ashamed and violated.” She continued: “Is it because I posed in a bikini? Is it because I get my cleavage out on Instagram and talk about my sex life on stage? Am I part of the problem?”
Confronting the men who have harassed her does nothing to help the issue, either. When she asked a man called Calum, who has sent her a series of crude sexual comments, why he does it - he blocked her. Meanwhile, others “bombard” her with abuse in response to her questioning, and another blamed her “reputation”, saying she “is always sleeping with different men”.
“It feels like sexual assault,” she admitted. “And I have been sexually assaulted, so I know what that feels like. I feel like I’m being sexually assaulted hundreds of times a day.”
But through the documentary, Ms Atack said she has come to better understand what “motivates” the men who harass her. As part of the programme, she spoke to activist Jamie Klinger, who co-founded Reclaim These Streets after the murder of Sarah Everard.
Klinger receives hundreds of rape and death threats, in addition to sexual images. “[This] made me understand that it’s not about bikini photos,” Ms Atack explained to The Times. “It’s about power. About silencing us. They are trying to silence us with their dicks.
“It’s about power and control. It’s men wanting to silence a powerful, outspoken woman who is, in their head, trying to spoil their fun and kill the party for them.”
While Ms Atack has taken a step back from social media since filming the documentary, because of the impact it has had on her mental health, she’s determined not to let the abuse change the way she lives her life. People tell her to block people or delete messages - but the reality is more will come, and social media is a vital part of her career.
“As women, we should be able to celebrate our own bodies without being sexually assaulted or harassed, without horrific consequences,” she told The Radio Times. “I’m going to carry on doing that.
“I’m not going to start wearing blouses done up to the top of my neck. It’s my body, my choice, my celebration of my life. That is me, and I should be able to live my life freely without devastating consequences.”
How can I watch Emily Atack: Asking For It?
Emily Atack: Asking For It? will be released on BBC Two on 31 January, at 9pm. The documentary will explore the abuse Ms Atack has been subjected to since she first starred in The Inbetweeners, through to her appearance on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, and up until now - where she hosts her very own The Emily Atack Show.
The programme will also attempt to understand what motivates the men behind the harassment and why the blame is so often put on the victim, as well as offering Ms Atack’s personal and honest insight into how the harassment has affected her.