For many people, sexual harassment has become a normalised part of a night out, but it shouldn’t be that way.
New research from Drinkaware reveals the extent of the problem, with almost three quarters (72%) of 18-24 year old men and women who drink in bars, clubs or pubs saying they’ve seen sexual harassment on a night out.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults also found 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.
Worryingly, nearly two thirds (63%) of women and a quarter of men (26%) said that they had been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment themselves.
In light of the findings, Drinkaware is campaigning to put an end to unwanted drunken sexual harassment and its normalisation.
The alcohol education charity aims to encourage witnesses to challenge the status quo by giving them information and advice on what to do if they see or suspect that someone is being harassed.
The three elements of the advice 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 okay? If not, try staff or security.
Lucy Harrison, from North London, has witnessed drunken sexual harassment many times on a night out and earlier this year stepped in to look after her friend.
“We were at a club we’d been to before but this time the atmosphere seemed different. There was one particular guy who wouldn’t leave my friend alone,” she said.
“After she ignored him and made it clear that she wasn’t interested he grabbed her bottom. She told him to go away, but he kept coming back. It’s like he saw it as a challenge. When his mates got involved, I stepped in too.
“It seemed safer to talk to his mates as I wasn’t sure how he would react. His mates defended his behaviour and said he was just very drunk, but I told them that’s not an excuse – if you wouldn’t do it sober, you shouldn’t do it drunk.”
She added that even after the group left, she felt uneasy in the club and the incident “completely ruined” their night out. Lucy and her friend cut the night short and haven’t been back to the venue where it happened.
“Unfortunately this kind of thing happens a lot in clubs. I’ve had nights out where guys have been dancing right up against me or touching me in ways that I don’t want,” she said.
“When this has happened I’ve either left early or asked a friend to stand between me and the person who’s behaving inappropriately.“
Janet MacKechnie, campaign lead for Drinkaware, said for far too many people “drunken sexual harassment is now sadly part and parcel of a night out”.
“Being drunk is no excuse to grab, grope or make inappropriate comments to strangers on a night out after a few drinks,” she said.
“If people see someone being sexually harassed, asking them if they are ok can make a big difference - whether they’re a friend or a stranger.
“It can be difficult to know exactly what to do which is why Drinkaware are giving young people this information and advice in the hope that next time they feel more confident to offer support to someone.”