In evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Drinkaware chief executive, Elaine Hindal (pictured) has spoken of the damaging effect of unwanted drunken sexual harassment, and called for a greater challenge of its normalisation in public places.
Drinkaware / YouGov research from 2017 reveals the shocking extent of drunken sexual harassment in a range of public places, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of women and a quarter of men (26%) who drink in bars, clubs and pubs saying that they had been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment.
In response to these findings, the charity has been running It’s OK to Ask behaviour change programme, encouraging bystanders to safely intervene when spotting individuals in need on a night out.
The advice, developed in collaboration with the Good Night Out Campaign and academic Rachel Fenton, project lead for the Intervention Initiative at the University of Exeter, is designed to help people feel safer and more secure when intervening.
The three elements of the advice for bystanders to challenge inappropriate behaviour and give support to vulnerable people are:
- Spot it — is something dodgy happening?
- Check it — is it safe to step in?
- Speak out — if it’s safe to do so, check in with the person being targeted: Are they OK? If not, try staff or security.
Drinkaware is now expanding the campaign into festivals as there is a marked difference in behaviour at music festivals compared to a pub, bar or club. Drinkaware found that while 52% of females and 42% of males who attend festivals reported witnessing inappropriate or sexual comments or touching at a festival, only 31% of those witnessing it asked the victim if they were OK, compared to 47% who did so when in a pub, club or bar.
Elaine Hindal said: “For far too many people, drunken sexual harassment is now part and parcel of a night out or being at a festival. Being drunk is no excuse to grab, grope or make inappropriate comments to strangers in public places after a few drinks.
“Bystanders have an important role to play in helping to challenge unwanted and drunken sexual harassment, but it can be difficult to know exactly what to do.
“That’s why Drinkaware has been giving people this information and advice in the hope that next time they see something happening, they will feel more confident to offer support. A simple thing like asking someone if they are OK can make a big difference, whether they’re a friend or a stranger.”
She added: “We all have a responsibility to challenge unwanted drunken sexual harassment wherever we see it. Asking someone if they are OK and giving them support sends a clear signal that this behaviour is no longer going to be tolerated.”
Venues and operators can help by supporting bystanders and by making it clear that drunken sexual harassment will not be tolerated on site. Drinkaware can support venues with Drinkaware Crew — specially trained members of the venue’s staff team — and its Alcohol Vulnerability Awareness e-learning course, which equips staff to recognise and deal with harassment and other situations where people are vulnerable on a night out.