Monitoring Report Lithuania

Aušra Pocienė
Vilnius University

The monitoring report provides an overview of how the prevention of sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment venues has changed over the course of the project (from 2020 to 2023): Changes in the legal definition and perception of sexual harassment in Lithuania; changes in the attitude of Vilnius City Council, police and nightlife venue owners; and an examination of how they have engaged in sexual harassment prevention, how sexual harassment is perceived by nightlife entertainment venue staff and what prevention measures nightlife entertainment venue staff have proposed at the end of the project.

The project „Sexual Harassment in Nightlife Entertainment Spots: Control and Prevention” ran from March 2020 to January 2023. Its main objective was to encourage local businesses operating entertainment venues to create a safe and sexual harassment-free atmosphere in their establishments.

The project fell into two unusual periods that fundamentally shook the foundations of public safety while unexpectedly complicating its implementation. The first was the Covid-19 global pandemic in 2020 and the second was the Russian war against Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022. War-related inflation also diverted the attention of nightlife entertainment venue operators from sexual harassment prevention.

In the first case, Lithuanian society (like the rest of the world) faced unprecedented quarantine restrictions on movement, communication, and other limitations. At the same time, this meant that entertainment and nightlife were virtually non-existent. Nightclubs faced a survival problem because customers stayed away. Fear for the health, lives, and livelihoods (many lost their jobs) of themselves and their dependents came to the fore. This made it uncomfortable to talk about sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment venues – which didn’t seem to be a priority in the context of the time. However, with the onset of mass immunization and the relaxation of restrictions in 2021, nightlife entertainment venues have resumed their activities. A society that had been isolated for a long time returned to nightlife. It became clear that sexual harassment and its prevention is a hot topic.

The second threat came on 24 February 2022, when Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Hostilities broke out. This was a great shock for the whole world and especially for Lithuania. There was an existential fear in society because of the real threat of war. It was particularly strong in the first months of the war. The public sector, business and citizens focused their efforts and attention on helping Ukraine. Conversations about sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment venues seemed to become irrelevant in such a context. But in the long run, people went on with their daily lives. Nightlife went on. Moreover, the sexual crimes against women and children in Ukraine during the war highlighted the importance of talking about respect for basic human values: Freedom, dignity, physical integrity. Sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment venues is just one of the many expressions of this culture of ‘normalisation’ that supports and justifies aggression and crimes against the human body and dignity.

The monitoring report provides an overview of how the prevention of sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment venues has changed over the course of the project (from 2020 to 2023): Changes in the legal definition and perception of sexual harassment in Lithuania; changes in the attitude of Vilnius City Council, police and nightlife venue owners; and an examination of how they have engaged in sexual harassment prevention, how sexual harassment is perceived by nightlife entertainment venue staff and what prevention measures nightlife entertainment venue staff have proposed at the end of the project.


Article 2(5) of the Lithuanian Equal Opportunities Act defines harassment as follows: „Harassment is unwanted conduct (discrimination) which, on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, disability, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, is intended to insult or is insulted the dignity of a person and is intended to create or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment.”

The fact that the issue of harassment and discrimination isn’t ignored in Lithuania, but is receiving more and more attention, is shown by the fact that during the project’s lifetime, a new provision of the Equal Opportunities Act came into force on 1 June 2022, which stipulates the protection of consumers against harassment, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

The amendment obliges sellers of goods and providers of services to implement the provisions of the law. This means that managers of companies and organisations must make their employees aware of what constitutes respectful and non-discriminatory treatment of customers and empower them to recognise, prevent and prevent harassment and discrimination among customers. It should be noted that this provision covers a wider range of cases than just sexual harassment. It can also cover harassment based on nationality or age, or stigmatisation based on sexual orientation, disability, or other personal identity characteristics. The changes in the law also provide protection against touching that is outside the scope of the service. For example, inappropriate touching during massages and health check-ups can be considered sexual harassment.

This change in the law has directly paved the way for the objectives of the project, namely, to enable nightlife entertainment venues to identify and prevent sexual harassment.

The only law in Lithuania that defines sexual harassment as a criminal offense is the Lithuanian Criminal Code Article No. 152 „Sexual Harassment”, which states: „Whoever harasses a person who is in an employment relationship or is otherwise dependent on him or her for the purpose of sexual intercourse or sexual gratification by vulgar or similar acts, insinuations or innuendos commits a criminal offense and shall be punished by a fine, restriction of liberty of arrest.

Since the law only covers a narrow range of offenses where a relationship of subordination between the offender and the victim is a prerequisite, there is only a limited number of such cases. As Table 1 shows, the number of recorded offenses in both the long period 2012-2022 and the short project period 2019-2022 is low and doesn’t reflect sexual harassment in places of nightlife entertainment.

It’s clear, then, that „sexual harassment” is a broad, subjective term in the public perception, the prevalence of which isn’t reflected in official crime statistics. This requires a different approach – we aren’t talking about sexual harassment in the criminal sense, but about how it’s perceived by members of society. Unfortunately, there are no reliable sources in Lithuania showing the prevalence of sexual harassment in general, let alone the manifestation of this phenomenon in nightlife. Therefore, within the framework of the project (see: Lithuanian report: Sexual harassment at nightlife entertainment venues in Vilnius, 2021 (Further Report, 2021)) as well as at the end of the project, a situation analysis was conducted where we collected qualitative data from employees of nightlife entertainment venues in Vilnius (see: Chapter 3).

Only data from victimological surveys can give a general picture of how much sexual harassment is known as a problem in Lithuanian society. One example is a representative survey of the Lithuanian population conducted in 2018 by the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for the Development of Equal Opportunities as part of the project „Her Voice: Empowering Victims of Sexual Harassment and Violence”.

According to this survey, 26% of female respondents and 5% of male respondents said they had experienced unwanted offers and compliments of a sexual nature. Most of the victims were young women. That sexual harassment is a serious problem in the workplace was said by 65% and in educational institutions by 63% of respondents. 80% said that the harasser shouldn’t avoid responsibility and that law enforcement should take every case seriously. 81% think that the victim should set the boundaries herself or himself in case of harassment.

Although sexual harassment is considered a serious problem, in 2018 the responsibility tended to be shifted to the victim: 63% felt that it was the victim’s own fault for being inappropriately dressed or provoking the harassment; 49% felt that victims tended to exaggerate the case; 47% felt that victims really enjoyed the attention they received; 40% said that people who report sexual harassment misunderstood the flirtation; 38% felt that touching a woman in an unwanted way shouldn’t be punishable.

It should be noted that the issue of nightlife and sexual harassment in Lithuanian society is underrepresented in public discourse – i.e., in the media (see: Report, 2021). The few publications dealing with this issue usually focus on the portrayal of incidents involving representatives of law enforcement agencies or on the description of relationships between young men and women. These are the two main contexts in which sexual harassment is mentioned. Victim support and prevention are mentioned only in passing or not at all. It should be recalled that most of the project period coincided with the Covid -19 pandemic in 2020-2021 when community catering had to curtail its activities and nightlife stopped completely due to quarantine restrictions. The „silence” in the media was therefore also largely due to this situation. One exception was a series of publications in 2021 about a case of sexual harassment by a customer in a café, which led to a basic reaction from the café’s employee, who sought a legal review. Unlike most cases, the focus here wasn’t so much on the incident itself, but on the victim’s principled response and her refusal to accept the ‘normalisation’ of the harassment. This can be taken as a sign that public perception in this area is slowly changing.


Prevention of sexual harassment is important in the context of the nightlife economy as one of the components of safety. From the outset, the authors of the project idea identified three stakeholders whose joint and concerted efforts would help prevent the spread of this phenomenon: the municipality, the police, and the owners of nightlife entertainment venues.

At the beginning of the project, an exploratory analysis revealed that communication on the issue of SH between nightlife operators, the municipality, and police units was almost non-existent (see Report, 2021). It became clear that in developing the Model of Prevention and Mitigation of Sexual Harassment in Nightlife Entertainment Venues it was important to find out what roles each stakeholder can play and what resources they have to ensure that sexual harassment prevention works smoothly.


In order to understand the role local government can play in preventing sexual harassment, it was noted at the beginning of the project that sexual harassment isn’t highlighted as an issue and that the issue of sexual harassment should be included in the municipality’s policy documents and municipal regulations for the operation of nightlife entertainment venues so that prevention initiatives can be launched.

The project period coincided with the development of the Nightlife Economy program in Vilnius. The Nightlife Economy Committee of the city was responsible for this. In August 2021, at the initiative of this committee, a working meeting was organized to discuss how the Nightlife Economy Program can incorporate the issue of sexual harassment prevention in the context of diversity and friendliness for all. The meeting was attended by representatives of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman, the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, the Vilnius Night Alliance, and the Public Safety Department of the Municipality. Representatives of the project were also invited to the meeting.

By this time (2023), the Vilnius Nightlife Economy Program is already in place. It focuses on prevention programs such as drug harm reduction training for hospitality workers and police; HIV testing; contraception; hate speech prevention; prevention of violence and psychological help. The highest priority, however, is sexual harassment prevention.

The program emphasizes that „we will finance and carry out prevention programs so that nightlife in Vilnius will be safer, healthier, and more attractive. Training, social campaigns and more accessible services at night can reduce harm and reduce the costs of the health service and justice system.”

In this way, the municipality, as the owner of the city, sets general standards for nightlife and paves the way for various initiatives to prevent sexual harassment.


The interviews with police representatives conducted in the project, as well as the general discussions with other actors, clearly showed that the police tend to play a supporting and advisory role in the prevention of sexual harassment. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, in nightlife, the police only observe incidents that take place in public spaces, not in closed nightlife entertainment venues, so they don’t have the opportunity to be the first to notice and respond to cases. Secondly, the police only respond to certain cases/incidents when they’re called to nightlife entertainment venues. These are usually more serious crimes involving sexual abuse, which are easier for both the victim and bystanders to recognize and report. The police are therefore not the first authority to respond directly to sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment venues.


As mentioned earlier, the project and pilot study coincided with the Covid -19 pandemic in Lithuania and the quarantine restrictions. This also affected the hospitality industry, including nightlife venues such as clubs and bars. Many of them had to stop their activities as they were closed to the public. Nightlife came to a temporary halt. Many of these pubs and nightclubs had problems surviving and had to close.

A pilot study (see: Report, 2021) was conducted at this very time to find out the extent to which sexual harassment was known to be a problem and how nightclub owners responded to it. Despite the more pressing issues at the time, club and bar owners were clear in their stance on sexual harassment. It became clear that it wasn’t a new or unknown problem. It also became clear that the perception of sexual harassment and the willingness to do something about it is not the same in all nightlife venues in Vilnius.

However, it has been shown that there is a group of socially responsible bars and clubs that have made it clear that sexual harassment shouldn’t be seen as an integral part of nightlife, that it shouldn’t be normalized, and that the situation needs to change.

Therefore, at the end of the project, when the Model was developed and the staff training was carried out, it was the representatives of these nightlife entertainment venues who were most actively involved in the project activities (see below). Representatives of the Lithuanian Association of Cafés and Bars were actively involved in the project training. In the course of the project it also became clear that nightlife entertainment venues had already taken measures to prevent sexual harassment, some of which had been developed on a „know-how” basis due to years of experience. Nevertheless, it was also important for them to train their staff to recognize and prevent sexual harassment.

It should be noted that nightlife entertainment venues, which feel socially responsible for the safety of their customers, are always the first to take the initiative. They see the city administration as a partner that creates a common context and sets priorities for a safe nightlife in Vilnius. The nightlife industry doesn’t expect special help from the police. They rather see them as an institution to turn to in case of more serious offences/crimes.


At the end of the project, 45 nightlife venues (nightclubs and bars) in Vilnius were visited. Interviews were conducted with the staff of the venues: Bartenders, waiters, hall staff, security staff – all those who have direct contact with customers. The interviews weren’t recorded and transcribed, but the most important points were written down immediately after the interviews (field notes).

The interviews focused on how sexual harassment is perceived and what preventive and control measures can be taken. The main themes that emerged from the interviews are presented below. It should be noted that the monitoring sought to find out the diversity of opinions – which views exist and which may be predominant in order to understand the situation – but no qualitative method (e.g., a survey) was used to quantify the distribution of opinions more precisely.


All staff interviewed are aware of sexual harassment. The only difference is in the content.

Three lines of thinking:

1. The existence of the phenomenon is acknowledged, but it’s seen as an inevitable and natural part of nightlife, as people come to nightlife specifically to look for dates. It’s argued that ‘harassment has always existed, exists and will exist’. This is expressed without regret – simply as a fact, as the norm.

2. Sexual harassment is treated as a problem, as something negative. But this is expressed with a resigned attitude – that unfortunately it cannot be eliminated.

3. A very clear statement that sexual harassment exists but won’t be tolerated and shouldn’t be further normalized – everything must be done to prevent it from happening again, „the comfort and safety of customers must be ensured”. There is also an allusion to the idea of a harassment-free nightlife: „customers must be protected, otherwise they’ll be afraid of nightlife in general”.

These three lines of thought are then reflected in the approach to possible preventive measures. However, according to the observation of a worker with many years of experience as a security guard, a change can be observed in the long term (in independent Lithuania): There used to be more sexual harassment (a more normalized phenomenon), but now there is less of it, „people who have learned the rules”. Thus, the frequency of sexual harassment varies from „never happens” to „all the time”, „every week we expel 5-6 such people”.

It can be seen that the frequency of harassment is directly related to the location and type of nightlife entertainment venues. Taking all the interviews together, we see that the venues range from an extreme where harassment doesn’t occur or occurs only occasionally to a high incidence:

• Small local bars (perhaps in a bedroom district) where there is usually a regular clientele, where people know each other and where there is a community and family environment. There may also be family-run bars where the landlord is directly responsible for security. Here there is a strong social control that prevents harassment from happening. If an incident does occur, it’s usually caused by random patrons who are unaware of the culture in the bar. This type of pub also includes pubs with a specifically male clientele (which are avoided by women, not because they aren’t welcome or because the microclimate is unfavorable, but because „men’s clubs” have formed where beer is drunk and sports games are watched and where men come with the aim of being in male company).

• Bars that aren’t necessarily small but are distinguished by their philosophy and internal culture – intolerance of any form of sexual harassment. That is why harassment is very rare here and is stopped immediately.

• Hotel bars. Their location determines the specific clientele: foreign guests, tourists, people of a certain status, which makes them less vulnerable to harassment, but not because of the bar’s internal culture or norms. Sexual harassment does occur here, but more by individual drinkers. Staff are also frequent victims of sexual harassment, both men and women.

• Bars/clubs with special events (e.g., stand-ups by comedians) are more closely monitored and socially controlled, and there are fewer or no cases of harassment.

• Bars where incidents of harassment are „coded” by their purpose, size, and flow of people. Large nightclubs where there are dance floors and large crowds and where customers go to enjoy themselves and have fun. Surveillance of such spaces is more complex and harassment is more common.

• Bars/clubs that have established themselves as „first date” places where people meet for the first time after meeting on the internet or by other means. Staff are aware of the specifics of their club and are vigilant as the potential for harassment remains.

• – Large commercial clubs with large crowds, high alcohol turnover, where people come specifically to meet people, or in the words of the informant, „men come to find women”. Such bars are characterized by the normalization of harassment. The staff ignore the harassment, look the other way, and refuse any responsibility to control it – „adults who know where they’re going”, „they can take care of themselves” (except in the most extreme cases). Other bars call them „bad bars” or simply „holes”.

In the interviews, it was said that the staff „don’t know” whether and to what extent harassment occurs in their club/bar. This can be interpreted as both a direct statement and a reluctance to talk about the issue.

Content and forms of sexual harassment

The employees’ answers ranged from general/conceptual definitions to naming specific forms of harassment.

The general definition given reflects both national and international instruments that refer to sexual harassment. The informants understood it to mean any conduct (verbal or non-verbal) that violates the dignity and personal space of another person. Such behavior must have a sexual subtext or intent to engage in a sexual relationship, it must be against the person’s will (if the person receiving the attention makes it clear or otherwise makes it clear that it’s unacceptable to them) and it must be repeated – it mustn’t stop after a warning.

Perception can be further divided into the following categories/forms:

• Physical actions and intense staring. Staring is interpreted differently by the informants. The main reason it’s not considered harassment is that there is no way to prove or establish the sexual intentions of the onlooker. However, for others, staring is also a form of harassment.

• Opinions on verbal harassment are divided. For some it’s „something else” because they „do nothing but talk”, while for others words are harassment if they hurt the person.

• Many people (although the interviews don’t allow such a generalization) think that harassment consists only of physical acts: Touching, grabbing body parts, pulling to dance, etc. The sexual intention here is clear for all to see. There was also an extreme view that harassment only occurs when there is an ‘aggressive rape attempt”.

The pitfalls of identifying sexual harassment:

Some informants said that sexual harassment cannot be recognized primarily by its forms of expression but by the person’s reaction to the attention given to him or her. The reaction is subjective. It can be influenced by the person’s gender and proximity to the harasser (acquaintance or not). This is comparable to the sense of humor, which is also subjective.

It’s more difficult to recognize harassment when it takes place between people who know each other and go to a pub or nightclub together.

Women (e.g., bartenders) are more likely to interpret certain behaviors as harassment than men.

In some cases, more serious offenses are also considered sexual harassment, such as when alcohol or drugs are secretly mixed into a person’s drink. There is no doubt that this is done with the sexual intent to intoxicate the victim.

Informants consider this to be a „slippery” subject, as it’s necessary to identify cases correctly, which determines whether staff intervene or not.

Factors contributing to sexual harassment

Alcohol and drugs were unambiguously mentioned.

Alcohol consumption as such loosens self-control. Offenders (who may not have intended to harass) start misbehaving and harass when they drink alcohol.

Drinking alcohol as a means of enslaving the victim. This may include secretly mixing alcohol into the victim’s drink, spending long evenings or pampering the victim with alcohol with the intention of eventually having sex.

The injection of drugs into a drink is a clear and direct means of having sex with a victim who is no longer oriented.

It’s noteworthy that young boys coming to a nightclub in a group act as a catalyst for harassment. There is a clear goal of finding someone: challenging each other, gossiping about a girl, even a „who hangs out with whom”.



Men are the predominant harassers, although women also harass, albeit less frequently.

They don’t specify a „type” of harasser, but experienced bartenders and security guards are able to recognize „suspicious” people – potential harassers – in advance: by their appearance, their gait, and the way they speak.

There are quite obvious cases of „villages” or „moroses” as the staff calls them – people with certain attitudes and behaviors who deliberately come to nightclubs to meet women, who indulge in more than their share of excesses and who use certain language.

Nevertheless, harassers (especially in bars and clubs where anti-harassment standards are enforced and there is a steady customer base) are referred to by staff as walk-ins, „freeloaders” who don’t really know what kind of establishment they have come to and how they’re allowed to behave here.

Staff can tell the difference between locals from Vilnius and visitors from other towns and villages. The former know how to behave, while the latter tend to overstep the boundaries. They have the attitude that you can afford a lot as a customer (especially if you have booked a table in advance). They look down on other customers and staff, and harassment is possible. According to one interviewee: „The staff or female customers seem like property to these men – they can be touched, approached, and humiliated.”

The distinguishing mark of an abuser is drunkenness. Either they arrive already drunk and aggressive, or they become drunk after consuming alcohol at the scene.

It’s also observed that older male customers harass younger female waiters/bartenders.

Women also harass, though to a lesser extent. In most cases they’re under the influence of alcohol and harass the staff (bartenders). They ask for personal contacts, invite them somewhere, etc.


The victims are mainly women: both customers and employees (bartenders, waitresses). Men are also victims of harassment, but it’s the service staff, not the customers.

Victims of bartending are most vulnerable when they work at night. Especially when they leave the bar (the possibility of physical contact).

The victim’s customers are no different. They’re mostly young girls. In practise, they don’t come to the nightclubs alone, but if they’re separated from the group, there is a risk of sexual harassment. The customers may also be sexually harassed by an acquaintance who has come with them, especially if alcohol is consumed.

Harassment scenarios

Potential harassers come to nightclubs with the specific aim of „hooking up” with someone and are active and skilled. Some succeed in meeting girls, others don’t, and then sexual harassment occurs because there is no mutual consent.

Another scenario is that they accompany a girl for a long time, treat her throughout the evening and finally express intentions – invite her to spend the evening together outside the nightclub, etc.

Spontaneous actions: Dragging her to dance, inviting her on a date, blatant physical harassment, not with words, but with brutal actions

Victim responsibility and victim blaming

Attitudes toward the victim are closely related to attitudes towards sexual harassment in general.

There are diametrically opposed views on who is responsible in cases of sexual harassment.

At one end of the scale is the belief that the victim must be protected at all costs and not blamed (always the harasser), especially in cases (such as the typical ones in nightclubs) where women are dressed revealingly or even provocatively: „Everyone has the right to dress and look the way they want.”

There were staff who supported the victim and were ready to help in any case, but at the same time pointed out the risk factors (dress, appearance, behavior) that can lead to sexual harassment. Security staff with many years of experience often warn girls who are more openly dressed to be vigilant.

There are staff members who criticize victims for being „provocative”, dressing too revealingly (especially with alcohol), „hanging out”, having treats, flirting, and „encouraging” the harassers themselves. According to the staff, the victims cause problems themselves and ruin the evening for others.


Alcohol and drug control

The very first measures mentioned by interviewees to prevent sexual harassment (and therefore probably the most important) are to control alcohol and drug consumption.

In relation to alcohol, it was suggested: not to admit customers who are already under the influence of alcohol; not to sell alcohol to extremely drunk people; and to immediately remove drunk people and those who behave inappropriately from the bar/club. It was noted that some club/bar owners prioritize revenue from alcohol sales, but staff who are committed to the safety and welfare of customers ignore this prioritization.

There is also a need to ensure that alcohol isn’t added to customers’ drinks (which they aren’t looking at). As far as drug control is concerned, the message is clear: putting drugs in another customer’s drink is an indicator of a willingness to intoxicate others and thus of inappropriate intentions. Therefore, as with alcohol, it’s recommended that drinks are monitored to ensure that nothing is surreptitiously added to them. Unmonitored drinks can be taken away by bartenders, covered with coasters, or simply poured away if they’re found to have been spiked. Customers suspected of these things should be asked to leave immediately. There is also a perception that such behavior is criminal and that perhaps the police should be called.

Other measures:
– If staff are being harassed, they can use lasers to signal to colleagues.
– Offer drinks with special names on the menu to signal harassment (Angel Shots)
– Give out code words in the bar/club to report harassment (staff know that society has grown up and would use them now if that didn’t work in the past)
– Just kick the harasser out of the bar without discussion.
– Talk to the harasser, don’t escalate the situation and the incident is done (however, staff know that not everyone is able to talk and conversations with certain groups – „moroses” – are particularly difficult)
– Designate a security staff member who is directly responsible for monitoring sexual harassment
– In large venues, bartenders may be assigned specific areas to watch and supervise
– To prevent an incident, invite the potential victim to sit at the bar where the bartender can keep an eye on them (on the other hand, there are more incidents at the bar because that’s where most alcohol is drunk and people sit close together)
– More cameras and better resolution. But there are also opinions that cameras don’t help.

Staff reactions to sexual harassment

Although these methods are used with varying frequency, they can be recognized by the commitment of the staff:
1. They notice the cases immediately, react, approach the harasser, and ask him/her strongly to leave the bar/club with the attitude: that the customers should feel comfortable and safe. This is more typical of small bars with a regular customer base who know each other, where there is a ‘family environment’ and strong informal control.
2. In larger bars/clubs (where the clientele don’t know each other) there are constant checks and a quick response to incidents, from disciplining to ejecting the offender.
3. The response is based on what can be seen and observed, control is weak.
4. In bars and clubs, incidents are noticed but preferred to be ignored and not seen. This can be the case when a less experienced girl is the only bartender and is afraid to intervene. Male staff, incidentally, have noted that intervention by the bartender/waiter himself (rather than by security) can be dangerous to appease an aggressive customer (it has been suggested to carry gas canisters for self-defense in such cases). Experienced bartenders have observed that even when they hear that „everything is fine”, they walk the extra mile to find out if everything is really fine.
5. As a matter of principle, they don’t observe or try to detect cases of harassment as they feel that this is the customer’s business. They’d only intervene if the incident escalates to physical violence.

Ability to notice and identify cases

It’s assumed that this is related to the age and professional experience of the staff. Experienced staff members immediately recognise that a situation is unsafe. They notice the signs of „eyes looking for help” even if the victim says „it’s OK” and are able to recognise a tense situation by body language. Some bartenders and waiters said that it’s almost impossible to recognise such cases because of the heavy workload. Others said that a bartender can always recognise such cases if he wants to. Young staff with little experience tend not to notice such cases and have less courage to react decisively. They find it „very uncomfortable” to confront the harasser to make him leave. There are more radical reactions when cases are ignored, such as „it’s not my job to look”, „they’ll find out themselves” or „if you [the victim] don’t like it, you can go somewhere else” or „she dressed too revealingly, what else could you expect”. On the other hand, an indifferent attitude and reluctance to prevent can also be observed among older and more experienced workers. This could be explained by attitudes towards sexual harassment in general.

Support providers

The interviews showed that staff members deal with incidents:
(a) deal with it themselves or by helping each other: e.g., female bartenders call male colleagues; a female colleague comes to help and moves away from the harasser. A female bartender has observed that harassers are more likely to respond to comments/warnings from the female bartender than from the victim because harassers respond to the status of the female bartender (they probably know they can be asked to leave);
b) call security who are either on site or on call (contracts with security companies). In the second case, you have to wait longer for help and you don’t get a problem solved as quickly. This is more common in small bars where security isn’t on duty all the time;
c) In extreme cases, the police are called.

Reactive and proactive approach

It’s possible to distinguish between two approaches. Some pubs/nightclubs and their staff accept sexual harassment as a potential risk and do everything in advance to prevent it. They set rules and priorities that must be followed. The well-being of the potential victim takes precedence over the discomfort of the harasser (monitoring, intervening, talking to the potential harasser, etc.). Others merely react to events and responses range from helping to ignoring or responding only as a last resort.

Asking the staff for help

Staff interviewed note that victims are often unaware that they can ask staff for help in cases of sexual harassment or are reluctant to do so. They’re even more hesitant to go to the police. Only rarely does someone make a sign or „show signs with their eyes”. Most of the time, victims try to deal with the situation alone, or they rely on the help of female friends who have banded together (in the best case, they’re male friends).

One bartender who was sexually harassed remarked that the victims „would probably be very happy if the staff noticed the harassment themselves and provided help without being asked”.

However, there were also bars where the victims themselves asked for help. Staff noted that it depends on the situation who takes the initiative first to stop the harasser (the victim or the staff).

Responsibility of the harasser and the victim

Although unquantifiable, opinions differed widely as to who was responsible for the sexual harassment: some blamed the uncontrolled harasser, others the provoking victim.

Encouraging customers to seek help

Bars and clubs that can be described as „socially responsible” make a special effort to inform their customers that they can and should contact the staff in case of sexual harassment. They need to be „indoctrinated” with this idea. The owners of the venues need to spend time and resources on training new staff.

Measures aimed at the public

In addition to the measures in nightlife entertainment venues, it was proposed to educate the public on what sexual harassment is, how to recognize it, and how to respect the dignity of the person and the integrity of the body.


In most of the bars visited, the need for training on sexual harassment was expressed. This was mainly about how to recognise cases of harassment and how to intervene. However, there were also bars/clubs that didn’t want any training. These were mainly small bars with a regular clientele where sexual harassment is almost non-existent and staff are able to deal with incidents. There were also bars that didn’t want training because they didn’t see sexual harassment as a problem and didn’t see it as their responsibility to prevent it.