Drinkaware calls for an end to the “status quo” on drunken sexual harassment at festivals

A festival season heats up, alcohol charity boss Elaine Hindal has called on the UK government to change the way we think about cases of drunken sexual harassment, saying that it shouldn’t be “part and parcel of a night out.”

(Photo: PLC_ studio/iStock)

Hindal, the chief executive of Drinkaware, told MPs that “being drunk is no excuse” for sexual assault, and said more needs to be done to change the way the public view instances of harassment during a select committee hearing on Women and Equalities on Wednesday 27 June.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of women and a quarter of men (26%) who drink in bars, clubs and pubs have been on the receiving end of some form of sexual harassment on a night out, according to a YouGov survey published last year.

The results also showed that, while 52% of females and 42% of males who attend festivals reported witnessing inappropriate or sexual comments or touching at a festival, only 31% of those witnessing it asked the victim if they were OK compared to 47% who did so when in a pub, club or bar.

Responding to the data, the charity launched “It’s OK to Ask” in September 2017, an initiative which encourage bystanders in bars and clubs to intervene if they see someone being sexually harassed.

The campaign was rolled out in cinemas, on the All4 digital channel, online and in venues across the North West of England in particular, where binge drinking levels are among the highest in the UK.

The advice is summarised in three points:

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.

Drinkaware is now expanding the campaign into festivals, claiming there is “a marked difference in behaviour at music festivals compared to a pub, bar or club.”

Venues and operators can help by supporting bystanders and by making it clear that drunken sexual harassment will not be tolerated on site, Drinkaware said.

It follows a conscious effort from festival organisers, both in the music and alcohol worlds, to crack down on harassment at events.

The Great British Beer Festival, for example, recently announced it would introduce the “Ask for Angela” initiative to this year’s event.

“Ask for Angela”​ is a discreet way to ask bar staff for help if a customer feels threatened or unsafe.

A festival-goer can approach any staff working on the festival’s onsite bars or stewards and ask for “Angela” to signal they need assistance. They will then be taken aside or to a safe location and offered help.

Staff have been briefed to either offer to call a taxi for the individual; contact their friends or family; or ask the person causing distress to a festival-goer to leave.

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