Sexual Harassment Prevention

Where to Start?

What can you do to help prevent sexual harassment in your establishment? Whether you manage or work in a pub, club, or retail store, here are some effective strategies to help create a safer space for both employees and patrons alike.

Assess the current situation. Do you keep track of complaints of harassment? (if not, you should start!) How many have you received in the last 6 months? Do you have sexual misconduct policies and procedures? Do they need to be updated? You may want to consider a short customer and staff survey about how safe they feel in your space. Use this assessment to identify your gaps, risks, and assets.

Get to work writing or editing! A robust sexual misconduct prevention program will include:

  • A Code of Conduct – This answers the question: “How do we want people to act in our space / at our event(s)?” It is a public-facing short statement about how you want patrons, staff, volunteers, and performers to act while in your establishment. It should be posted on your website, Facebook events, and inside your venue.
  • A Sexual Misconduct Plan – This is where you describe how you are going to help keep staff and customers safe. List your prevention and risk mitigation strategies to reduce the likelihood that sexual harassment and assault could happen in your space. This will include things like clearing unattended drinks swiftly and having mixed gender security teams. It should also include resources for staff to learn more, list organizations to train staff, and state how frequently training will be offered.
  • A Sexual Misconduct Policy – WorkSafeBC legislation requires that you have a policy around bullying and harassment, which includes sexual harassment. When taking the time to write this policy, I recommend you build it out further and include policy around harassment of patrons. It should include details such as how complaints of harassment are managed (Where do you take patrons to make a complaint? Who do they talk to? When are police involved?). It should also specify where to document complaints, and outline resources that are available to victims.

Creating these documents may seem daunting at the start, but spending time upfront to make these critical components will not only contribute to a safer environment for staff and patrons, it will also make navigating issues much easier when harassment occurs.

Other tips:

Don’t Over Serve – Remember your Serving it Right! Did you know that alcohol is the most common thing used in drug-facilitated sexual assault?

Trust Your Instincts – If someone is causing you to have a defensive feeling, trust it. There is no “type” when it comes to sexual assault. Monitor the behaviour and refer to your workplace policy.

Offer Free Water – Do not make patrons pay for water. Consider a closed container that is self-serve.

Clear Unattended Drinks Swiftly – These are prime drinks to be spiked. Also patrons may help themselves to these “freebies”.

Be The Best Bystander You Can Be – Being an effective bystander requires skill, and all staff should know how to intervene when they see someone making others feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Include training on intervention in your prevention strategies.

You Are Not A Matchmaker – If someone asks you to send someone a drink, just say no. Also, you are in a position of power. Don’t pressure patrons into accepting drinks from you.

Do Not Let Them Leave – If you suspect someone has been drugged, make sure that you ask them if they are ok. Ask if they know what happened or where they are. Ask if they need help. Let them sit in a safe space. Do not force water.

Safety Is A Team Effort! – Bus staff are the eyes and ears of the venue. They are often in the thick of the dance floor and able to pick up on changes in patron status.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Good Night Out Vancouver is available to train your staff and management in how to create a safer space and help write plans and policy. To learn more, check out or email

Stacey Forrester is Co-Founder, Good Night Out Vancouver along with Ashtyn Bevan. They have worked with a variety of partners to help ensure safer nights out for all including: BarWatch, The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, The Juno Awards, Capilano University, and The City of Vancouver.