Campaign launched to tackle sexual harassment in bars and clubs

It's OK to Ask

Bar, pub and club operators are being urged to support a new campaign to tackle drunken sexual harassment that many young people suffer on a night out.

“It’s OK to Ask” has been launched by alcohol education charity Drinkaware to encourage staff and other customers to challenge any incidents that they witness. It will provide them with information and advice on what to do if they see or suspect that someone is being harassed.

It follows new research by Drinkaware and YouGov among adults aged 18 to 24 which found that 72% of respondents said they had seen sexual harassment on a night out.

It revealed that 79% of women said they expected inappropriate comments, touching and behaviour to take place when they went out, either to themselves or to their female friends, and 63% of women and 26% of men said they had been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment themselves.

Drinkaware hopes that staff and operators will help by supporting bystanders and by making it clear that drunken sexual harassment will not be tolerated on site.

Drinkaware’s Alcohol Vulnerability Awareness e-learning course and Drinkaware Crew, who provide support in looking after vulnerable young people, can also help staff to recognise and deal with harassment and other situations.

The campaign is being rolled out in cinemas, on the All4 digital channel, online and in venues across the north-west, chosen because of the high proportion of people in the 18- to 24-year-old age group in the region who binge drink. Click here to see the ad on YouTube.

Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “Drunken sexual harassment is seen by too many young people as part and parcel of a night out. The aim of the ‘It’s OK to Ask’ campaign is to empower people to challenge this behaviour.

“Operators can play their part by supporting bystanders who come to them for help and by taking the issue seriously, helping to foster a positive and safe social environment where drunken sexual harassment is not tolerated.”

The “It’s OK to Ask” campaign offers advice to bystanders in three key areas:

  • 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.

“It’s OK to Ask” is part of Drinkaware’s ongoing “If You Wouldn’t Sober, You Shouldn’t Drunk” campaign and was developed with input from a number of experts including Hollaback’s Good Night Out campaign against street harassment and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust which tackles personal safety.

One of the young people interviewed for the campaign was Lucy Harrison from north London, who stepped in when a friend was being sexually harassed earlier this year. She said: “We were in a club and there was one particular guy who wouldn’t leave my friend alone. She made it clear she wasn’t interested, but he grabbed her bottom and kept coming back, like he saw it as a challenge.

“I stepped in and spoke to his mates, who defended his behaviour and said he was just very drunk. That’s not an excuse – if you wouldn’t do it sober, you shouldn’t do it drunk! It completely ruined our night.

“It’s great that Drinkaware are taking this issue on and sharing what people can do if they witness drunken sexual harassment – it really can make all the difference. I wish I’d had this advice when I was younger. It would have been a lot of help!”

The research was carried out by YouGov among 2,013 UK adults aged 18 to 24 through its online panel. Quotas were set based on the known population profile of adults aged 18 to 24, and the final data was weighted to reflect this profile.

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