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Challenging sexual harassment in bars and clubs

Challenging sexual harassment in bars and clubs

By Drinkaware

In light of recent events in Hollywood there has been a lot of discussion about the culture of sexual harassment: what people knew about, what people overlooked, or what they were unable to challenge. Since then, it’s been clear that this behaviour is not isolated to just Hollywood with many women experiencing sexual harassment in all manner of situations.

At Drinkaware we have heard many stories from young women, and men, about their experience of sexual harassment on nights out in bars and clubs.

The scale of the problem

The frequency of these stories is shocking; our most recent research found that 72% of 18 – 24 year olds who drink in pubs, clubs or bars have witnessed some form of sexual harassment on a night out.

Among the 18-24 year olds who drink in pubs, clubs or bars nearly two thirds (63%) of women and a quarter of men (26%) said that they had been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment themselves.

Even more alarmingly, it has become so common place that 79% of those surveyed told us they expect it to happen, to either themselves or their female friends.

Things like groping and grabbing, uninvited intrusive dancing and degrading comments have, sadly, become part and parcel of nights out for young for people. They feel disgusted when they witness this behaviour, and upset when they experience it.

Drinkaware wants to challenge this ‘norm’ so that pubs and clubs are safe places where young people can have hassle free fun. That’s why we are running campaigns and providing training for clubs and venues to help challenge unwanted attention and provide support to young people who may be vulnerable.

Our most recent campaign, ‘Ok to Ask’, encourages young adults on a night out to step in if they see someone on the receiving end of sexual harassment. The campaign message, ‘If you see someone being harassed on a night out, it’s ok to ask if they are ok’ is supported by advice on how to step in and offer support.


How bystanders can make a difference

The ‘Ok To Ask’ campaign poster above shows there are three simple steps to keep in mind when you’re on a night out.

SPOT IT: First of all look out for others; if you see something that doesn’t look right and bothers you, don’t ignore it.

CHECK IT: Take a moment to pause and check the situation to consider what’s happening. If you’ve had a few drinks your inhibitions may be lowered, so it’s important to be mindful of that before you intervene so you don’t end up adding to the problem. Your instinct and judgement will help you decide whether or not it is safe; a bit like you do when deciding to cross the road. Check the environment; are other people involved? Does it already look a bit tense? If you’re not sure, ask a friend for a second opinion.

SPEAK OUT: If it is safe to step in, go up to the person on the receiving end of the harassment and ask them ‘Are you Ok?’  This simple distraction could be enough to diffuse the situation. But if it doesn’t feel safe, ask a member of staff or security to help you.

This campaign is designed to do two really important things; firstly, it provides the person on the receiving end of the harassment with an opportunity to get out of the situation and, secondly, it sends a message to the perpetrator that the behaviour is not on.

Drinkaware worked with a range of experts from police to academics specialising in bystander interventions to shape the campaign approach; and the Good Night Out campaign supported advice development.

We hope that ‘Ok To Ask’ will give young people the confidence to step in and help when they see something that doesn’t look right, and if this happens more frequently, we hope that sexual harassment stops being normalised in bars and clubs.  Research is currently under way to assess the impact of this first wave of activity and results will be available early 2018.

Creating safer, more positive nights out

This activity is an extension of Drinkaware’s ‘Wouldn’t Shouldn’t’ campaign which has been running in North West England since 2015; an evaluation of the first year of the campaign demonstrated a significant change in attitudes to harmful drinking behaviours and unwanted sexual attention.

The campaign sits beside our Drinkaware Crew scheme, which provides training and resources for bars and clubs to help support the welfare of young people on nights out; this can range from helping customers into registered taxis to supporting someone who has been hassled. Drinkaware have worked with a range of partners from police to community safety initiatives to set up the scheme and training has been provided in 15 cities across the UK.

Through this programme of work, we’re aiming to challenge the culture of harassment in clubs and bars so that’s it is no longer expected, tolerated or overlooked. We want to work towards a new ‘norm’ where it doesn’t happen.


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