Code should aid people identify sexual harassment – rape crisis centre

Minister planning new charter for night-time economy in bid to stamp out sexual violence

A proposed code aimed at tackling sexual harassment and assault in night-time venues should help train staff to understand its harmful effects, the head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has said.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee plans to develop a charter for pubs, nightclub and other night-time venues to provide training to identify and prevent sexual harassment and assault.

The Minister will be consulting with industry groups such as publicans, nightclub owners, hotels and taxi driver representatives to encourage them to help develop and sign up to the code.

The night-time economy charter is part of the Minister’s plan for a wider zero-tolerance strategy against sexual violence to be brought before Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Noeline Blackwell said the proposed code was "definitely part of the solution" in tackling night-time behaviour that has become tolerated.

She said the industry has a lot of work to do to identify how best to ensure that people feel safe and that they “won’t be subject to abuse in the so-called night-time economy. Hopefully it will, in the course of training, help people understand the harmful impact of sexual harassment, of groping, of people being considered bad sports if they don’t put up with harassment or downright abuse or sexual assault. We excuse it far too much.”

Much like bar and club staff are trained not to serve alcohol to intoxicated people who pose a danger, staff should be trained to manage those who could harass others, said Ms Blackwell.

“It would be interesting to see whether they can also more clearly identify people who are behaving in a way that might be considered bad form but isn’t recognised as assault,” she said.

The planned charter is based on the Cork-based Safe Gigs initiative that aims to make concerts and nightlife safer by creating a zero tolerance environment for sexual violence.

Ms McEntee plans to use this initiative as a template for a national code that musicians, comedians, performers, promoters, crew, venues, and bar and club staff and security will sign up.

Highlighting issues

The intention is to set standards across the sector under a voluntary code that people will acknowledge with a badge or sign on their premises showing that they are adhering to the charter.

Ms Blackwell said that it was “good to see this measure coming out” given how recent cases in the entertainment sector have highlighted issues for people working in these areas.

“As a society, we haven’t quite come to terms with the fact that the kind of behaviour that is actually sexual harassment, that abuse is very much tolerated in the context of night-time economy in a way in which physical harassment or abuse would not be tolerated,” she said.

Bar and club staff often have to experience sexual harassment that is excused as something that people working in the night-time economy have to accept, Ms Blackwell said.

“If that behaviour would not be acceptable in a workplace during the day, it is not acceptable in someone’s work at night but very often they are told you have to put up with it,” she said.