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Drinkaware challenges sexual harassment ‘normalisation’

Drunken sexual harassment should not be “part and parcel of a night out”, Drinkaware has stressed, as the charity calls for bystanders to speak up against inappropriate behaviour.

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of charity Drinkaware

Almost two thirds of women (63%) and a quarter of men (26%) who drink in bars, clubs and pubs have reported being on the receiving end of some sort of sexual harassment, according to Drinkaware/YouGov research from 2017.

Speaking at the Women and Equalities Select Committee on Wednesday (27 June), Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal commented on the “damaging effect” of unwanted and drunken sexual harassment and called for a “greater challenge of its normalisation” in public places.

The charity has been working on a behaviour change programme, called It’s OK to Ask, which encourages bystanders to safely intervene if they spot someone in an uncomfortable position on a night out.

The programme offers three key points of advice: spot it, and ask is there something dodgy happening?; check it, and see if it is safe to step in; and speak out – if it’s safe to do so. The campaign recommends asking the person being targeted if they are OK, and if not to call a member of staff or security.

Drinkaware plans to expand the programme to festivals after finding that 52% of women and 42% of men who attend said they had witnessed inappropriate or sexual comments, or touching at a festival. Only 31% of those witnessing some form of sexual harassment at a festival asked the victim if they were OK, compared to 47% when located in a pub, club or bar.

The charity is also offering an e-learning vulnerability course, and more details can be found online at

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.

“We all have a responsibility to challenge unwanted 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.”

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