By now we’ve all seen the image that appeared online yesterday (09/05/17), allegedly from an incident some months back which feature a (seemingly) motionless Mike Nesbitt lying prone on the floor of the Stormont Hotel.

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Nesbitt himself has remained relatively silent on the incident, with no explanation about how or why he ended up on the floor and simply commenting that “Things happened”.

On first glance the image appears to have evoked amusement, certainly if social media reactions are anything to go by, and with some people it has also created “disappointment” that Nesbitt would ever be on the floor in public, as if to imply his location in the picture must be entirely his fault and he should have behaved more appropriately. One individual interviewed in The Belfast Telegraph remarked:

“I was surprised by this, I thought better of him”

When looked at through the lense of drunken horse play (which the image may be showing, who knows?) the above attitude may make sense. However, was Mike Nesbitt assaulted and furthermore, is he actively being assaulted in the image we see?

While Mike has remained tight lipped about the incident what he did say seemed to imply a tense and provocative atmosphere that led to the scene flying through the media yesterday. It was reported by various media outlets that the image came after Nesbitt was approached about his politics and became involved in an argument with two guests, Mike himself commented further on this by claiming that, when you have a public profile you can’t “expect people to fully respect your privacy”.

Given the confirmation of an argument with two guests and Mike’s own confirmation that his privacy in some form was not respected during the incident, is this image actually of an assault taking place, and if so why were the public so quick to either condemn or laugh at Mike’s expense?

If we take a step back for a moment, it’s clear that the image doesn’t show Mike falling, he in no way appears to be in motion and we’re unaware how he made his way to the floor. It may also be worth considering how we would otherwise view this image if roles were reversed and it pictured a motionless lady face down on the floor, being held up by her collar by a man.

Suddenly laughter turns to awkwardness and the tone is more sinister. Surely that would be an image of assault taking place and outrage would ensue, cries of personal space being invaded and the woman’s vulnerability would ring loudest. But not here? As things stand at best this image is funny and at worst it’s Mike’s own fault and he’s a massive disappointment. Right?

Wrong. This should not be the case. Contrary to popular belief it is possible for men to be assaulted, it’s especially possible for them to be assaulted by woman, as alien and unpopular an opinion as that might be.

Sadly, none of us were there to confirm one way or another what happened, and given a choice I would hope that no assault took place and the image is based in innocence. However the real world dictates that may not be the case, and we as a community and wider society would benefit from realising that men are not impervious to assault or physical harm, and that given Mike’s motionless positon, he may not have in anyway consented to the rigorous contact being deployed by either of these women. And that’s a problem.