80 Percent Of Young Women Expect Sexual Harassment During A Night Out, & It Shows How Much Going Out Culture Needs To Change

If you're going out with friends, your biggest concern should be what to wear. A night out is a near-sacred ritual filled with carefree fun, dancing, and maybe drinking (if that's your thing, which it in no way has to be). Unfortunately, sexual harassment is rampant in bars and clubs around the world. Unwanted sexual advances are so commonplace that researchers set out to find more about young people's experiences with sexual harassment and going out culture, and the results are pretty grim. The study found that 80 percent of young women expect sexual harassment during a night out with friends. Heartbreakingly, these results are in line with previous research — another study found that women start to view sexual harassment and violence as a normal part of life at a young age.

This isn't OK, and it's clear something about the way we view partying needs to change. The research, which was conducted by YouGov on behalf of British alcohol awareness organization Drinkaware, involved a survey of more than 2,000 British people between 18 and 24 years old about inappropriate comments, touching and behavior when they go out with friends. The goal of the research, according to Drinkaware, is to raise awareness and provide people with information that can help them call out sexual harassment if they see it happening.

Nearly 3 in 4 People Have Seen Sexual Harassment During A Night Out

Sexual harassment should never be normalized as something that just happens, but the results show that it's depressingly commonplace. Seventy-two percent of people surveyed said they'd seen sexual harassment while drinking at a pub, bar or club. Some establishments are fighting back to break the expectation that sexual harassment is normal. One Florida restaurant tells patrons to order an "angel shot" if they feel uncomfortable on a date or are facing unwanted advances. The restaurant will even call the police for its guests. But with 80 percent of young women expecting sexual harassment and almost three-fourths of people having seen it while out with friends, it's apparent we still have a long way to go.

Men Experience Sexual Harassment at A Lower Rate, But It Still Happens

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One of the most important findings from the research is that women aren't alone when it comes to uninvited touching and sexual advances while out drinking with friends. More than one in four men said they'd been sexually harassed while out with friends, and 63 percent of women said the same thing. Sexual harassment is still less common for men overall—one study found that more than 80 percent of workplace sexual harassment complaints are brought by women — but men aren't immune from being treated in unacceptable ways. A study from the Department of Defense found only about one in 10 men report sexual harassment or assault when they've experienced it, which is a huge problem.

You Can Help Stop Sexual Harassment When You See It

The burden to stop sexual harassment should rest squarely on the shoulders of the person acting inappropriately, but if you see sexual harassment while out with friends, there are things you can do to help the person who's being harassed. Drinkaware has started a social media campaign with the hashtag #OKtoAsk to encourage people to ask questions if they see something suspect, which is a mainstay of bystander intervention. The organization encourages witnesses to step in if it's safe and possible to do so. Here are some things to ask yourself, according to Drinkaware.

  1. Is something dodgy happening? Don't be afraid of butting in if you have a gut feeling something is off.
  2. Is it safe to step in? You shouldn't risk your safety to intervene. If possible, alert a bouncer or bartender.
  3. Can you directly ask the person being targeted if they're OK? If you're nervous about talking to the offender, try to start a conversation with the person being victimized.

If the answer to any of these things is "no," it's a good bet to get security or staff involved. No one will blame you if you're in shock when you see something inappropriate happening, but if you have the ability to help, you can start with these questions.

“If people see someone being sexually harassed, asking them if they are ok can make a big difference — whether they’re a friend or a stranger," Drinkaware campaign lead Janet MacKechnie said in an emailed press release. “It’s time to put an end to unwanted drunken sexual harassment. Asking someone if they are OK and giving them support sends a clear signal that this behavior is no longer going to be tolerated.”

The next time you plan a night out with friends, keep your eyes peeled for anything potentially risky — you might be able to help someone get out of a dangerous situation. This shouldn't be your responsibility, but until we change our expectations and fully dismantle rape culture, sexual harassment will continue to be a thing we need to be aware of.