Bootcamp grad Ester works with the Good Night Out campaign, to train pub, bar and late-night venue staff to respond to sexual harassment. I went to one of their trainings last month to check it out!
Sexual harassment is just part of a ‘normal’ night out. At least that’s what a study conducted last year found out. A poll by YouGov revealed that almost three-quarters of young people have witnessed sexual harassment during a night in bars, pubs and clubs in the UK. Nearly two-thirds of women and a quarter of men had been on the receiving end of sexual harassment. A concerning 72% of respondents said they had seen sexual harassment in some form.
I don’t think I know a woman who hasn’t been affected by harassment of some sort during a night out. I remember thinking it was normal when I was at university. Like many of my friends, I accepted it as a part and parcel of going out. I was curious to find out what was being done to tackle this. That’s why I was delighted to meet Ester Van Kempen on our May Bootcamp, who campaigns to tackle sexual harassment with the Good Night Out Campaign.
Fast forward a few weeks after Bootcamp, and it’s 6 pm on a warm Thursday night. I’m at the Victoria in Dalston, a historic East End pub with a varied clientele, and a large room for gigs in the back. The Victoria has a long standing heritage as a music venue, having hosted various bands for the past three decades. But there’s no gig on tonight, and very few staff on the bar – as they’ve called everyone who works for front of house (including bar staff, supervisors, management, door staff and security) in for a training on sexual harassment.
This isn’t a standard sexual harassment training that a company might typically run through human resources. This training is delivered by the Good Night Out campaign, an organisation on a mission to end sexual harassment and assault in venues, bars, clubs, festivals across the world. Just one of over 200 trainings the Good Night Out team have conducted since the campaign was founded in 2014.
Around 30 people are gathered in the Victoria’s garden, along with Jen, Ester and Diana from the Good Night Out team – and then the training kicks off. Ester starts off by asking ‘what does harassment mean?’ The Victoria’s staff are given large sheets of paper and pens – it’s starting to look a bit like a day in the training room at Bootcamp – and get into groups.
I start to see words and phrases like ‘unwanted touching’, ‘catcalling’, and ‘following’ written down. Some of the bar staff talk about situations when they’ve seen these things happen, or have had these things happen to them. The security, in particular, can reveal that they’ve been harassed a number of times. Questions like ‘where is the line?’ and ‘how do you know when it’s harassment?’ are asked.
This training is unlike any sexual harassment or workplace conduct meeting I’ve been in before. It involves a safe space to talk about personal stories, to open up about harassment that the staff have either witnessed or have had happened to them. At one point, there is a role play, which directly addresses how Good Night Out suggest reacting to harassment reports. The laws around unwanted sexual touching and verbal aggression are discussed.
At the end of the training everyone left with a concrete plan of action to put into place when witnessing harassment, a reminder of the law around harassment and what should be reported to the police, and a training pack including posters to put up in the venue. But more than that, they left having just put aside time to discuss very real and personal stories of harassment. They left being heard and having had a space to really think about what harassment might play out in the venue they work in – and how they can work towards putting a stop to it. ‘Remember, if one person is harassing someone, it is likely that they are harassing others too,’ Ester says towards the end of the training. ‘You might not have been there to stop the first instance, but responding properly to it may stop them from harassing others in the future.’
At the end of the training session at the Victoria, I pop into the restrooms before making my way home. As I close the cubicle door, I’m greeted with a poster that lets me know that the Victoria want all people to have a good night out, and if the reader experiences any harassment or is made to feel uncomfortable by anyone in the pub – to let them know. It’s these kinds of posters that I wish I’d had on the doors of the clubs I went to at university. They might have convinced me that being harassed isn’t a normal thing.
To find out more about the Good Night Out campaign, visit their website at: www.goodnightoutcampaign.org
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Jake is an activist from Brighton who has been involved in a range of campaigns, from housing and renters rights activism to campaigning for Palestinian solidarity.
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