A stripper who was “victim blamed” by her bosses after she was groped and attacked by a customer while working has been given £12,000 in compensation from a judge.
Tayler Whittaker, 26, was left scarred for life after a customer slapped her bum as she worked at the Euston branch of Secrets strip club, in North London, in January 2017.
She confronted the man, who broke the club’s “strictly no touching” rule, who then first tried to punch the dancer, before smashing a glass over her head, leaving her covered in blood and needing stitches.
Bouncers stepped in after the attack and let the man go without contacting the police. He was never identified, despite it being caught on CCTV.
Tayler sued the club for not protecting her, but Secrets’ lawyers claimed that she was herself to blame, because she should not have challenged the man.
Last week a judge awarded her £12,000 in compensation by a judge at Mayor’s and City County Court, who condemned the club’s “victim-blaming” and “back-covering” attitude.
Judge Wendy Backhouse said a senior club manager had written a “back-covering” report shortly after the attack and it was “intent on blaming” Tayler from the start.
She also found that “there was a clear disincentive to staff doing the proper thing and calling the police” coming from the management of the club, who were worried about “a black mark” when they reapplied for a license for the club.
Giving evidence, Tayler told the court she had been working in the early hours of January 27, 2017, when the man and his friends came into the club.
Tayler, from Enfield, North London, told the court the men were “drunk” and she tried to stay clear, but eventually had to go over and sit down to talk.
However, as she got up to leave, one of the group slapped her on the buttock, she told the judge.
She turned to tell the man it was “unacceptable”, but was then subjected to an “arrogant” foul-mouthed outburst and a violent attack.
First, he attempted to punch her, then picked up a glass and slammed it onto her head, leaving a gaping 2.5cm wound on her forehead, she told the judge.
The men were kicked out and Tayler went to the hospital.
Police were never called and the man was never found.
She sued Secrets (Euston) Ltd, claiming that security staff had been negligent in not stepping in more quickly to protect her.
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She claimed that if the inappropriate touching had been spotted and acted on, then the man would have been thrown out and the assault would never have happened.
Joshua Hedgman cross-examined Tayler on behalf of Secret and suggested she had “made it worse” by not walking away and “created a violent situation” by “physically remonstrating” with the man.
The club’s policy said she should have called over security, and he alleges she instead took matters into her own hands by confronting the man and hitting him.
He argued that Tayler “put herself in a situation of danger, accusing her of “escalating the situation” by confronting the man physically.
Tayler denied hitting the customer, other than to push him and said she had looked around following the slap and could not see any security staff.
Initially, another dancer had stepped in and it was about 20 seconds later that a security guard finally arrived to help her, she said.
When asked why she had not simply walked away, Tayler told the judge: “Us girls had to stand up for ourselves, it’s not as simple as calling over security.
“You have to put people in their places on a regular basis and keep yourselves safe and keep within the guidelines of the club.
“At the time, I did look for security and I didn’t see anyone. There was no one to help me, so I stood up for myself.
“I felt it was not fair he had done that to me.”
Her barrister, Alex Carington, accused Secrets of adopting a “misogynistic” attitude in suggesting that she should not have reacted in the way she did when slapped by the man.
He said: “She was understandably angry. She was clear about that, that it was wrong this individual thought because he was there he could touch her body without permission.
“I think the behavior of Miss Whittaker in turning around and telling the assailant that his actions were inappropriate was entirely understandable.
“The way he then conducted himself was not.”
The judge said she was not convinced Paul Phillpot, the club’s former group operations manager, who wrote the initial report on what happened, had even spoken to the security staff or Tayler.
She said that his report seemed “like a back-covering exercise, attempt on blaming Miss Whittaker.”
The club also had given instructions to staff not to call the police or an ambulance after any incident without running it past a manager first, she said.
The judge said: “As Mr Phillpot said at the end of his evidence, that was because any calling of the police, any incident of that nature, would have been a black mark on any subsequent licensing application.
“There was a clear disincentive to staff doing the proper thing and calling the police.
“Certainly when Miss Whittaker reported the matter to the police they noted – apparently critically – that the defendant had not called them at the time.
“It seems to me that the nature of Mr Phillpot’s report has some of the same flavour, so as not to suggest any culpability on the part of the defendant.”
The court heard Tayler left her job a couple of months after the attack.
Awarding her £12,000 compensation, the judge said: “I concur with the claimant’s submissions that is highly unfortunate victim-blaming.
“Looked at objectively and with hindsight, not walking away may not have been the best course for Miss Whittaker to take.
“But in my judgment, the cause of the assault was solely the actions of the perpetrator himself and he is 100% to blame for it.”
Ruling that the club’s security had been negligent in not preventing the assault, she continued: “It must surely be their job to constantly scan the room, watching what is happening in order to react to any developing problems.
“Surely, that is the job: to keep a constant lookout.
“So, in my judgment, had the security personnel been doing their job and constantly scanning, they should have seen the slap to Miss Whittaker’s bottom or, at the very least, the beginning of the altercation between her and the customer.
“They should have responded much more quickly, within a few seconds, rather than 20.
“Given the small space and the speed with which they could have got to the incident, in my judgment it is highly likely that the assault could have been prevented.”