The organization Good Night Out Vancouver came to Revelstoke last week.
It’s part of an international initiative dedicated to raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault on nights out.
“Night life is a lively part of my life. It’s 2018 and we shouldn’t tolerate this anymore,” says Ashtyn Bevan, a regional organizer for Good Night Out Vancouver.
The organization aims to raise awareness of the links between alcohol and sexual aggression. The group was initiated from community concerns that staff and patrons in Vancouver’s nightlife could benefit from education around how to recognize, interrupt and prevent sexual harassment and assault on nights out.
The group also patrols the streets of downtown Vancouver to provide help and support the police.
“We’ve found so many women in a back alley unconscious,” says Bevan.
While based out of Vancouver, Good Night Out travels the country. Bars and clubs book them to educate staff on how to protect themselves and their patrons from sexual assault.
“Businesses should be taking on a role to keep patrons safe,” says Bevan.
One drinking establishment in Revelstoke, who did not want to be named, hired Good Night Out for two sessions last week.
“I attended a seminar [Good Night Out] last April at the BC Hotel Association Annual Function Summit in Whistler and found it very informative and educational,” wrote the manager of a drinking establishment in Revelstoke, in an email response to the Review.
“I felt it would benefit our team as guest and staff safety is our number 1 priority,” he said.
The manager says he is not aware of any sexual assaults occurring at his establishment.
Approximately 35 Food and Beverage staff members attended the Good Night Out session last week.
According to Good Night Out, sexual harassment is not simple to define.
“It can be anything that makes your customers or employees feel uncomfortable,” says Bevan.
“Context is everything.”
Examples include: unwanted whistling, leering, sexist/homophobic/transphobic slurs/sexual names, following, flashing, groping, taking photos without consent and sexual touching.
“People can always revoke consent. It’s not always as simple as yes,” says Bevan.
As with most things, the session began with numbers.
More than 4o per cent of Canadian women have been harassed at work according to numbers provided by Good Night Out. Almost 70 per cent of all Canadians say they personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assault.
Other notable statistics include:77 per cent of stalking victims are women
21 per cent of people between 18 and 34 incorrectly believe sending an explicit photo, text or email counts as consent
45 per cent of perpetrators were identified as a casual acquaintance or friend
1,397 sexual assaults occur in Canada every day
Bevan says statistics regarding sexual assault are problematic.
“Not all people report to police.”
And so, these numbers are probably on the low end.
Another problematic aspect of dealing with sexual assault are rape myths, such as only bad people get raped, rapists are easy to identify or it’s usually men in trench coats jumping out of the bushes.
“It’s usually someone you know,” says Bevan.
Good Night Out says rape culture is deeply embedded in Canadian culture and individuals can contribute without ever committing sexual assault.
“When I go change my outfit 25 times before going out for the night, I help contribute to rape culture,” says Bevan.
Sexual assault in Revelstoke
When researching Revelstoke prior to arrival, the two organizers say they noticed numerous media stories on drink spiking in the community.
Since 2015, the RCMP in Revelstoke say they have had 14 reported cases of sexual assault, of which two are suspected to involve drugs. So far this year, there have been five reported sexual assaults, none of which allegedly involve drugs.
“As far as drink spiking, we understand this to be occurring, we have seized GHB in Revelstoke and have multiple confirmed cases of persons consuming GHB intentionally,” wrote Staff Sergeant Kurt Brabinsky, from Revelstoke RCMP Detachment.
GHB is a central nervous system depressant and can cause loss of consciousness, nausea, hallucinations, amnesia and comas. It’s commonly referred to as a “date rape” drug.
However, many drugs can be used to spike drinks, even Benadryl and Gravol.
“We rarely hear of people getting caught spiking drinks,” says Forrester.
While the RCMP say they do not have any drink spiking reports for 2018, Revelstoke Victim Services does.
“The number of incidents seems to come in waves and we’ve seen an increase in the last couple months,” says Stephanie Melnyk, from Victim Services.
“December is a difficult month because of all the partying.”
However, Revelstoke isn’t unique.
“For drink spiking, Revelstoke is on par with other communities,” says Melnyk.
“But here there are two degrees of separation.”
Interior Health further also noted that tracking drink spiking is difficult.
“Emergency Department visits are tracked by symptoms as opposed to causes and as stated earlier some may suspect their drink has been spiked but if they do not attend the ER straight away then results may not show this and its often unreported so it is very unclear as to how often it is occurring but we know that it is,” wrote Julie Lowes, site manager at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke.
“Even if people are not sure we still encourage people who think this may have happened to them to come up to the hospital immediately,” says Lowes.
If someone says they have been assaulted
It’s important to believe them says Bevan.
“At least believe they are scared enough to seek you out.”
When someone steps forwards, it’s not the time to be Judge Judy.
“Listen to them and don’t assume. This may require you to challenge your own internalized rape myths,” says Bevan.
Good Night Out says the #MeToo movement changed everything.
“When we started, businesses said they don’t have sexual assault issues. After #MeToo our bookings went up 300 per cent,” says Forrester.
“These conversations are important because it helps people acknowledge that there is a problem.”
Forester says for a long time, we have viewed sexual harassment as a part of going out for the night.
“But it’s shifting now.”
The RCMP would like to remind patrons of the following safety tips for drink spiking:
Keep an eye on your drink. If you leave your beverage unattended for any reason, discard it rather than consume it.
Don’t accept drinks from someone you don’t know, unless you have witnessed it being poured
Order bottle beverages and ask they be opened in your presence
avoid sharing other people’s drinks
Cover your drink with your hand or coaster
Look for obvious signs of tampering
“Party with your friends”