Updated: May 27
Statistics show that instances of sexual assault in bars, clubs, and pubs are on the rise and we need to take action to avoid incidents and turn our cities safer for women. Sexual violence and harassment are everyone’s problem, everyone’s business and everyone’s responsibility. According to a YouGov research, around half of all women feel unsafe in various routine situations, while men rather feel less vulnerable in the same context. Approximately 62% of women that go out at night were afraid to go alone.
This article sets out some of the measures that nightlife venues can take to reduce incidents in their venues and make them safer environments for women.
You can take action and turn your business into a safer environment for your customers and employees by having:
A clearly communicated zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment,
Communication campaigns setting out acceptable behaviour for attendees and encouraging bystander intervention,
Robust policies to respond to allegations that emerge in your venue,
A clear understanding of drink spiking and the role of alcohol and drug consumption in vulnerability and sexual violence,
A workplace with a culture that respects everyone.
There are a number of training courses that your staff could go on which would better equip them to identify inappropriate behaviour, vulnerability and ensure that if any allegations do emerge in your venue, that they are able to respond properly. Staff in nightlife environments are often the “eyes and ears” of the venue. Bar staff may be the first to spot what looks like predatory behaviour, or security staff may be the first to be informed that a woman is intoxicated and vulnerable. Poor responses from venue staff can have disastrous consequences. Areas of training you may want to consider for your staff include:
Anti-sexual harassment training. This informs your staff about what sexual harassment is and looks like, the harms it causes and equips them to respond to cases in your venue.
Drink Spiking training. This sets out what drink spiking is, what the data indicates, what it looks like, and how to respond if your staff suspect someone is spiking or if someone comes forward suspecting their drink has been spiked.
Vulnerability training. The night time economy is often a space where vulnerability can emerge. It can arise as a result of intoxication, mental health crises, relationship difficulties and more. This training equips your staff with the skills to identify someone who has become vulnerable and gives them the skills to support someone who needs help.
All of these trainings are available from NTES. You can find out more information by looking here.
A clearly communicated zero tolerance approach to sexual harrassment
It is unfortunately far too uncommon that victims of nightlife sexual harrassment or violence will not come to report the incident to the venue at the time. This may be because the victim has consumed alcohol or drugs, and fears that they will not be believed by the person they report the incident to. It may also be that they simply don’t know who the right person is to report it to, and feel anxious about approaching a member of staff they don’t know. It could also be that they fear the venue will not take the allegation seriously, and that they will not take action and the victim will be stuck at the event with the perpetrator, who may be encouraged to continue with their behaviour, knowing that it was reported to the venue but no action was taken. As such, venues in the NTE should:
Have a clear, zero tolerance to sexual harassment and sexual violence which sets out that survivors will be believed,
Adopt a victim-centred approach, which listens to their concerns and is non-judgemental,
Communicate to attendees who they should approach if they witness or are victim of inappropriate behaviour.
Communication campaigns setting out acceptable behaviour for attendees and encouraging bystander intervention
Making your venue feel safe for women isn’t just about taking action when incidents occur, it’s also about creating a welcoming environment which promotes the importance of consent, respect and calling out inappropriate behaviour.
For example, this summer The Secret Garden Party festival ran a successful campaign which set out expectations about the behaviour of attendees and communicated what people should do if they need support. The festival provided several welfare areas, in addition to a specialist service for survivors of sexual violence, domestic abuse, harassment and spiking where any complaints were taken seriously.
This is an example of a SafeUP poster, letting attendees know that the staff on-site in all SafePlaces are training to respond effectively to sexual harassment and support you.
Robust policies to respond to allegations that emerge in your venue
No matter what type of venue you have, sometimes incidents of sexual harassment, drink spiking and inappropriate behaviour will come up in your premises. How you respond is critical in ensuring that victims are taken seriously and unacceptable behaviour is prevented. If an allegation comes forward, you should make sure you:
Believe the victim, and take their account seriously,
Adopt a victim-led approach, and follow their lead on what they want to happen next,
Listen to the victim, in a non-judgmental and considered way,
Not ask questions or say things which could undermine the victim’s experience,
Be mindful of the need to preserve evidence – drinks, CCTV and clothing can contain evidence which is helpful in securing a conviction,
Review incidents afterwards to see what learning can occur and constantly review your policies.
Given the prevalence of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the nighttime economy, it’s critical your venue has robust policies in place and that your staff know what to do if someone comes forward.
A clear understanding of drink spiking and the role of alcohol and drug consumption in vulnerability and sexual violence
The past 12 months have highlighted a number of drink-spiking cases in both the UK and abroad. Drink spiking is a serious criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, drink spiking is only one-way alcohol and drugs can be used in sexual violence. Global studies have shown that drink spiking constitutes less than 10% of sexual violence cases involving drugs or alcohol. The link between alcohol and drug use and sexual violence is complicated, with many different potential causes. However, in addition to drink spiking, venues should be on the lookout for:
People who have consensually consumed alcohol or drugs but are intoxicated and vulnerable to abuse,
People who are offering alcohol or drugs to others with the intention of them becoming intoxicated,
People who are intoxicated and behaving in an inappropriate manner and not respecting the wishes of others.
It is important that your staff are vigilant about the risk of drink spiking in your venue, but it’s also important to be aware of other situations where sexual violence in nightlife can emerge. This is why booking vulnerability training from an organisation like NTES is so important.
A workplace culture that respects everyone
Everyone deserves to feel respected and included wherever they are. Having diversity and inclusion in workplaces is what makes everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do, feel equally involved in and supported in all areas. Different genders, races, nationalities, and sexual orientations need to be respected, and insults, assaults, or incidents of harassment should not be accepted. Everyone needs to have more knowledge about what discrimination is, the consequences, and how to prevent it from causing problems amongst your staff or patrons. This will mean you have a respectful culture and working environment.
If your business wants to follow these steps to become safer for everyone and help women feel free in their day to day, then they should also join the SafePlaces Initiative by SafeUP.
SafePlaces is a community of businesses that is vouching to support women girls and genderqueer people when they feel unsafe. ‘SafePlaces’ are registered businesses that offer shelter for people feeling vulnerable walking alone.
SafeUP partners with a range of companies including hotels and hostels that are open 24/7, and all of them will be shown in the SafeUP app and Waze app. This will allow your trained businesses to be located on the Waze map, and all the ‘SafePlace’ shelters through branded location Pins that appear when people are near a registered location. Together we can make women and girls feel safe, protected, and empowered in all community spaces.
Join the SafeUP community and the SafePlaces Initiative. If you want to take more action and take deeper and more comprehensive training, sign up to the NTES anti-sexual harrassment, drink spiking or vulnerability training. NTES can also support your venue with creating the right policies to ensure your venue is as safe as it can be.