With the Christmas party season upon us, alcohol education charity Drinkaware highlights the extent of sexual harassment and assault that young people experience on drunken nights out. At a time of year when most people expect to drink more than usual, the charity warns that being drunk is never an excuse for sexually harassing or assaulting people. This criminal behaviour should not be tolerated.
It would seem that many young adults may not be surprised if some people use the festive season as an excuse to behave in an intimidating way. In a survey of 18-24 year olds conducted for Drinkaware by ICM**, nearly a third of young women (31%) aged 18-24 say they received inappropriate or unwanted physical attention or touching on a drunken night out. More than a quarter (27%) say they have put up with inappropriate sexual comments or abuse on a drunken night out but less than a fifth (19%) of these young women say they were surprised to find themselves in this situation.
Most of the young people (66%) we spoke to said that persistent unwanted sexual attention ruins a good night out. Young women who experienced this told us that it left them feeling disgusted (69%), they also reported feeling anger (56%) and fear (38% ).
In an initiative to address alcohol fuelled sexual harassment on nights out, Drinkaware and the Nottingham Crime & Drugs Partnership (NCDP) are running an innovative campaign to tackle this. The initiative, which is part of the Home Office’s Local Alcohol Action Areas, sees new ‘Club hosts’ working in venues in Nottingham and Mansfield to look after young people who are being sexually or physically harassed. It is their job to work inside pubs and clubs to help ensure any issues of anti-social behaviour are stopped before they escalate. The project also involves an advertising campaign across Nottinghamshire, in cinemas, online and in venues, using the strap line, ‘You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk.’**.
Elaine Hindal, CEO of Drinkaware, says: “Young adults tell us that groping and sexual comments are commonplace on nights out. Touching another person in a sexual way without their consent is legally defined as sexual assault. It’s a criminal offence and being drunk is no excuse for it. Worse still, it can be a precursor to more violent behaviour. If you wouldn’t do it when you’re sober, you shouldn’t do it when you’re drunk.”
Paddy Tipping, Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire says: “I support the Drinkaware campaign because I would like young women to be treated with respect when they go on a night out. That means not being touched up or harassed. Young men wouldn’t behave in this way in the daylight hours so they shouldn’t do it at night time. I’ve got two daughters and I want them and other young women to go out and have a good time and feel safe.”
Young men are not exempt from sexual harassment on drunken nights out. One in ten (11%) of those questioned say they received inappropriate or unwanted physical attention or touching on a drunken night out. This is despite over half (58%) of the young adults surveyed saying would be surprised if a male friend was on the receiving end of inappropriate sexual comments or abuse.
The young men surveyed also highlighted other negative effects of drunken nights out. They were more likely than women to say they had experienced having a sexual encounter they regretted (14%), getting into a fight (12%) and passing out in a public place (10%). One in ten men also admitted that they had been unsure whether they have had sex on a drunken night out.
It is hoped that the Nottingham scheme will encourage people to question their own behaviour when drunk and reduce instances of sexually aggressive behaviour on nights out. The campaign will be evaluated in the New Year and if proven to be successful, it is hoped that it could be rolled out nationally.