According to Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on victimization, sexual assault is the only violent crime in Canada that’s not on the decline. In fact, since 1999, rates of sexual assault have remained relatively unchanged.
This year’s #MeToo campaign highlighted the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, bringing issues of consent and predatory behaviour to the forefront of most mainstream media outlets. This has provided a moment of realization for many, but not for Good Night Out Vancouver, who have been actively combatting sexual harassment in Vancouver’s nightlife industry for over two years.
Good Night Out (GNO) is a volunteer organization run by Ashtyn Bevan and Stacey Forrester. Together, with a group of volunteers, GNO literally patrols Vancouver’s entertainment district, aiming to prevent violence and sexual assault and help vulnerable club and bar patrons get home safe.
So, discussions of sexual harassment have broken into the mainstream, but where do we go from here? We were fortunate to ask GNO co-founder Ashtyn Bevan about harassment, consent, Vancouver’s position within the #MeToo dialogue and what we can do as citizens to foster a safer community for us all.
VIA: Hi Ashtyn, in the past few years, have you seen any shifts in how Vancouverites view sexual harassment?
Ashtyn Bevan: When we first started this program here in Vancouver, we had a hard time getting mainstream venue’s to even work with us because they didn’t view sexual harassment as an issue. We had numerous bar manager’s tell us that “harassment doesn’t happen in my venue”.
I wouldn’t say they have gotten better or worse, but we are finally at a point where people are open to learning more about sexual harassment, its systematical roots and how they personally can help tackle it.
VIA: It seems like more people are willing to participate in these conversation, as a team who is dedicated to combating harassment, what do you think of this?
SB: It’s great that these conversations are starting to happen but we need to remember to look at it with an intersectional lens and realize that their are systemic deep rooted issues in why harassment occurs, and why one’s age, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation all play a role in the power dynamic in which is enrouted with harassment.
The cultural shift I hope to see in terms of our nightlife scene here in Vancouver, is a recognition and dismantling of rape culture and shift into consent culture.
VIA: So, how can Vancouver help dismantle the cultural that enables harassment?
SB: It will take a community effort to help dismantle the culture in which enables harassment, but here are a few tips:
- Challenge your own internalized rape myth’s and always support and believe the survivors.
- Take an active role in promoting consent culture.
- Aim to stop being a passive bystander, when it comes to little things like rape jokes.
- To all the male identifying folks; please acknowledge your privilege and take the responsibility to speak out against the normalization of sexual and gender based violence (use your privilege for good).
- Address problematic behaviour at every turn.
- Take the conversation off Facebook.
- Reflect on your past.
- Resist the urge to view people and cultures as objects to be consumed.
- Mentor better behaviour.
VIA: I’ve seen some online commenters say that GNO isn’t necessary because drinking, blacking-out, etc. is a “right of passage”. How would you respond to those critics?
SB: There are a couple more factors to consider when making this statement. It’s key to remember everyone has a different lived experience and ones hilarious black out drunk night may be a horror story for another.
In response to these type of critics, there is a reason why we do this work. Our volunteers may have a different reasoning behind why this project is important to them, however, I think we are all really passionate about helping others and a lot of us have been in their shoes. From being young and having one too many drinks or they may have gone out and been aggressively hit on all night. Everyone has different experiences but we all are in the same boat when it comes to helping the more vulnerable and making sure everyone is having a good night out ;)