Breaking the silence on sexual harassment in bars

3rd November, 2015 by Melita Kiely
Drinkaware

Drinkaware is embarking on a campaign to stamp out drunken sexual harassment

Being drunk is ‘no excuse’

“Students have told us that drunken sexual harassment is a common and unwelcome part of a night out, yet they don’t feel empowered to stand up to it,” says Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware. “Touching another person in a sexual way without their consent is legally defined as sexual assault. It’s a criminal offence and being drunk is no excuse for it.”

Off the back of these findings, Drinkaware has launched a new campaign titled “You wouldn’t sober, so you shouldn’t drunk”, which endeavours to draw attention to sexual harassment, break down the “entrenched attitudes and behaviours” surrounding alcohol and provoke debate on what is indisputably a taboo topic. However, it’s not the only organisation working towards change.

Preventative initiatives

In Savannah, a city in the US state of Georgia, the local Rape Crisis Centre has embarked upon a new initiative to prevent sexual assault through training bar staff on how to recognise and respond to potential sexually-motivated crimes. The centre is now approaching individual bars to provide training for staff members to spot warning signs of when a person has been drugged and when to restrict service of alcohol, in addition to promoting basic bystander intervention techniques.

“Local response to the BBT [Bar Bystander Training] has been favourable,” notes Kesha Gibson-Carter, executive director at the Rape Crisis Centre. “We would like to see bar staff and management take a lead role in their public acknowledgements of being against sexual violence. If a bar staff person’s actions can prevent one assault, a difference is made.”

Still, when it comes to drug-facilitated sexual assault the chances of catching an attacker sneaking something sinister into an imbiber’s drink are slim. Door searches can only go so far, and even the most acutely aware bartenders cannot possibly keep their eyes on all guests for the entire evening.

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