An international organization known for its work to end street harassment is taking its fight against “rape culture” inside the nightclubs, bars, pubs, and concert venues of Metro Vancouver.
“We have heard fairly regularly about quite sexually aggressive behaviour, even groping, happening especially in packed dance clubs,” Stacey Forrester, team lead for the Vancouver chapter of Hollaback, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “People may be not getting consent or taking ‘no’ for an answer. Women’s concerns are not really being validated, because the bouncers perhaps aren’t really sure how to handle things like that.”
This week, Hollaback Vancouver teamed up with London-based Good Night Out to expand that campaign outside of the U.K. and Ireland for the first time. Created by Hollaback London, Good Night Out focuses on harassment in liquor-licensed establishments.
According to Forrester, in response to an invitation from management, Good Night Out Vancouver volunteers will visit a venue for a “safety audit”. Afterward, the venue will receive recommendations aimed at improving the safety of women and LGBT people.
Once the recommendations have been implemented, and management and security staff have undergone anti-harassment training, the venue will be allowed to display the Good Night Out logo and be listed on the campaign’s website.
“These places will be recognized as having zero tolerance for sexually aggressive or sexist or homophobic types of behaviours,” said Forrester, who’s a Downtown Eastside nurse and women’s studies student at Douglas College. “The staff will be recognized as being safe for a woman to go to and say that they’re feeling uncomfortable, and the bouncers as having the skills or the sensitivities to appropriately deal with that.”
Barry Rabold, cultural director for the entertainment company Blueprint, called Good Night Out’s arrival in Vancouver a “great thing”. Blueprint’s stable of clubs includes M.I.A., Celebrities Nightclub, L.E.D. Bar, Caprice Nightclub, Venue Nightclub, and Fortune Sound Club.
Rabold told the Straight he plans to contact Hollaback to see how these clubs could participate in Good Night Out. He added he’s pleased to see the group bringing the issue of harassment to the forefront.
“If we see someone put down a drink in a bar, we’ll always pick it up,” Rabold said by phone. “We don’t want someone putting something in a drink. We try and watch over all that kind of thing. But there’s always weirdos in the bars that try and do those kind of things. We always just want to ensure that everyone is having the best time they can. I think it’s a great program to showcase that even more so.”
Eventually, according to Forrester, the “collaborative” Good Night Out campaign will start approaching venues where people have reported feeling unsafe.
“If women go out and something is repeatedly happening at a club, they’re not going to want to go there,” Forrester said. “That’s not really, I feel, a reputation that venues want to have.”