Situational Prevention

There are many measures that could be taken to enforce security and safety from sexual harassment in nightlife entertainment places. Some of them will be introduced in this model. However, before every specific measure could be introduced it is important to understand the basics. All efforts to create a sexual harassment-free place rest on the common atmosphere of a place and a common understanding of the staff that there is no place for sexual harassment on their premises. Highly sexualized red-light clubs or masculinized pubs for “real men” encourage stereotypes about sex and gender roles to manifest themselves. A staff forced to wear sexy clothes is hardly treated as someone whom you could apply for help if being sexually harassed. However, a culture against sexual harassment could be nurtured even in such clubs and pubs and the recommendations below could be applicable even there.

Clear notifications that the nightlife entertainment venue does not tolerate any sexual harassment could be of value in building a sexual harassment-free culture. Special signs to be introduced by municipal authorities and provided to the sexual harassment-free nightlife entertainment venues could be placed on entrances, and posters ridiculing gender stereotypes and supporting equality could communicate a message that no sexual harassment will be ignored.

Vice versa, building certain culture is a prerequisite for the successful prevention of sexual harassment, however, it is not enough. Situational measures to prevent manifestations of sexual harassment shall be taken both in strip clubs and pubs of local communities where people who know each other gather. 

It has been proved in many spheres of life that the best way to talk about the prevention of almost any negative issue is through a problem-solving triangle. When talking about crime prevention the triangle is based on a routine activity theory. The theory states that crimes occur when there is a chance for them to be committed. And these chances exist when a motivated offender meets an unprotected victim in a location not managed properly. Graphically, a crime triangle looks this way:


Thus, to want to avoid sexual harassment from occurring in a certain nightlife entertainment venue we shall seek, that:

– the premises of a nightlife entertainment spot are managed properly and the manager of the place holds effective control of everything what is happening in the premises;

– there are no people tending to sexually harass others present, or there are people that can handle likely offenders properly;

– there are no potential victims present, or there are people that can protect likely victims properly.

These three sides of a crime triangle are best to be discussed one by one.

Every manifestation of nightlife sexual harassment takes place at a certain place. Usually, these are premises of nightlife entertainment spots. However, the vicinities of these premises are also important. Although pubs and nightclubs cannot be held responsible for what is happening outside their doors, at least partial observation of patrons gathering outside can preclude incidents from occurring in the premises after they are back. For this aim, CCTV could be of use, but it is even more important not to allow visibility of what is happening outside, e.g. providing sufficient lighting and not covering windows of nightlife entertainment premises.

Premises of nightlife entertainment venues can also be discerned into at least three categories that require different approaches.

First, there are parts of the premises that are constantly inside the view of the staff of the nightlife entertainment business. What is happening at the bar is in front of a view of barmen, what is happening on the dance floor is in front of a view of DJs and performers, what is happening at the cloakroom is in front of a view of a cloakroom attendant, etc. (yes, even a cloakroom can be a place where sexual harassment could be prevented, e.g. by noting potential offenders who observe whether potential victim leave their cell phones in the cloakroom and thus become more vulnerable). Although these people are not obliged to stop all manifestations of sexual harassment from occurring, they are the ones who could timely recognize sexual harassment and invite the responsible staff to interrupt. It is important that the abilities of the staff to notice manifestations of sexual harassment in these places are not obstructed: overcrowdedness shall be avoided, there shall be enough space for every person to avoid touching by others, sufficient lightening shall be assured, music shall not eliminate the possibility of talking with the staff, etc. Additionally, it is good to provide some training for the staff hon ow to scan their environment to notice that something is going on and can turn into sexual harassment. The body language of patrons could provide false positives, however basic skills to read it may secure somebody’s dignity from sexual harassment – anyway, even in case of a false positive asking patrons whether they are ok does not hurt anybody.

Second, there are usually places in the premises that can be observed however less often than others, e.g. sitting areas in nightclubs, smoking rooms, inner yards, and others. It is important that the staff of a nightlife entertainment spot take a look at what’s happening in these parts of their premises periodically and scan the environment. It shall be assured that there are no uncontrollable places, e.g. places without any light. Usually, it is good to place mirrors in sanitary places in such a way that the interior is seen in the mirror before entering. However, apart from that, technical measures could be introduced for potential and actual victims to call for help. They might be different, starting from alert buttons, and ending with clearly visible information on how to contact the staff through media channels, be they Facebook messenger profiles of a pub, pub’s telephone numbers that could be used through What’s up, etc. It shall be kept in mind that using apps to call for help could be beneficial. Victims would be able to use them without offenders noticing that.

Instruments to alert potential victims that their drinks have been compromised with date rape drugs might also be made accessible, either free of charge or for a nominal fee. Some of the tests are already freely accessible on the market and not expensive, many more are being developed: smart coasters, napkins, straws, and others. It is important for the potential victims to be informed that these instruments exist and the ways how to use them. It should be noticed that these items placed in wide visibility would act as a warning to potential offenders that their attempts to use certain substances would be noted and sanctioned.

Third, there are certain areas with restricted access in every nightlife entertainment venue – toilets and other sanitary facilities. It is not an option to view whether everything is ok in there. However, cleaners of nightlife entertainment facilities could be asked to inform responsible staff about facilities occupied longer than usual, and conversations heard. The restricted access to certain facilities could also be exploited for communication of certain messages to potential victims – e.g. phrases that would be understood as a call for help when sent to the staff through messaging apps or “Ask for Angela” alternatives.

The staff of nightlife entertainment spots shall be counted as managers of the places. They are in the best position to prevent manifestations of sexual harassment from occurring and to mitigate them if they take place. Involvement of the police force in these cases usually is not the best solution neither for the nightlife entertainment spot nor for the victim himself or herself. However, it is of no less importance that calling the police shall not be artificially avoided. Only proper communication with law enforcement can guarantee effective prevention of what is going on in the premises of every nightlife entertainment venue. That however also means that the staff shall receive certain training needed to comprehend in what circumstances incidents shall be reported to the police and how to do that.

To carry on with manager tasks in a proper way the staff shall have certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes. They shall be accessed when employing new members of the staff and provided for the newly employed through on the job training. The staff members shall be motivated to perform their tasks in the field of prevention and mitigation of sexual harassment. Thus, these issues shall be addressed when considering bonuses and the career development of staff members.

The ones to take over every incident of sexual harassment are the security (face control) staff of nightlife entertainment venues. However, it is important to involve as many staff as possible to provide the security staff with information on incidents occurring – barmen, waiters, cleaners, and even DJs and performers engaged as freelancers.

It is important to invite other people to notice and interrupt sexual harassment noticed. Bystanders shall be encouraged either to interrupt themselves when they see sexual harassment taking place or to report it to someone on the staff. Nightlife entertainment venues could consider how to thank bystanders who managed to stop sexual harassment from occurring with free drinks or other measures. Clear notifications that everybody is encouraged to intervene when they see sexual harassment occurring could also act as a warning to potential offenders that they are watched even when no staff are nearby.


It is too often that after sexual harassment takes place in a nightlife entertainment venue the victim goes home to avoid more trouble and the offender stays looking for another potential victim. It is of the utmost importance to guarantee that it is the offender who suffers the consequences of his or her improper behavior, not the victim. Thus, everything shall be done to guarantee that it is not the victim who leaves. While what concerns offenders sometimes is enough to make him or her leave, sometimes harsher steps shall be taken to sanction sexual harassment.

The security staff of nightlife entertainment venues are the main holders of potential victims, they are also the ones to react to incidents of sexual harassment that were not prevented. As mentioned above, the most common sanction in these cases is making the offender leave the nightlife entertainment venue. Sometimes it is good to inform other nightlife entertainment venues nearby, volunteers patrolling the nightlife streets, or even police, that a certain person caused certain problems in a certain pub or nightclub. For sure, no private data of the offender can be communicated. Security guards usually do not possess this data themselves, but for example, there shall be no place for taking and sending out photos or videos of the offender.

It is more difficult to decide whether the police shall be called. The main rule to apply is that police shall be called every time when the victim requests that. Access to justice is among the absolute human rights and it can never be restricted. However, should police be called when a victim opposes that, especially in cases when it is clear that the victim has suffered significant harm and is vulnerable in some or another way, e.g. under the influence of alcohol? There can be no definite answer given in advance. On the one hand, the victim shall not be forced to go through criminal or administrative procedures seeking retribution for what he or she has suffered. On the other hand, such a decision of the victim can be caused by his or her vulnerability, and professional support to take a decision to apply to the police is needed. Although the staff of nightlife entertainment venues shall be trained to provide immediate emotional support and certain information to victims, as well as to refer them to victim support services, professional victim support services cannot be established there. Thus, in these cases, it is best not to press the victim to talk with the police immediately but to document the incident properly for the victim to be able to decide whether to start legal procedures afterward. It would be beneficial to establish a common algorithm with local police forces on the way such documentation should look like. 

It is important to react to potential risks of sexual harassment in a timely manner. Thus, steps shall be taken to identify who among patrons are tending to breach the limits of acceptable behavior in advance. A concept of dynamic security could be introduced, telling that it is best for the staff to engage in friendly communication with all patrons, in order to identify potential risks coming from their side. It is good to warn potential offenders that their conduct is being watched and that no sexual harassment will be tolerated (sometimes it is also good to let potential victims know that they are watched and will be protected in case of every incident). However, some people can be identified as posing potential risks even in advance, actually, that’s what face control at the entrances is for. Furthermore, it is good to know people that who have already caused certain problems in nightlife entertainment venues, these people shall be either not allowed to enter or observed with sufficient diligence. It was already mentioned that it is good to share information about people asked to leave with other pubs and nightclubs in the area. However, a note shall be taken of them for the future also – the staff shall memorize those causing certain problems and shall share this knowledge with their co-workers, especially those who were not present at the scene or at the time of the incident.

Sometimes it is important to memorize even patrons who have not caused any problems, although their behaviour was on the edge of acceptance. Many sexual crimes are committed after the offender and victim get acquainted in a pub or nightclub and leave together. Many of these crimes can be prevented if a potential offender is let to know that the face control at the exit has scanned and memorized both the potential offender and potential victim, and would be ready to testify that they have left together.

Security staff shall play the main role in the prevention of sexual harassment and reaction to the incidents occurring. Opportunities shall be considered for security staff to be present throughout the premises, and not at the entrance only (of course, the ways shall be searched to avoid security staff being too visible, visibility of protection usually raises feelings of insecurity). However other staff’s involvement is also necessary. First, all the staff should take note of what’s happening on the premises and inform the security staff in a timely manner. There are however steps that other staff members can take to prevent incidents of sexual harassment from taking place. It is often that people turn to sexual harassment when under influence of alcohol or other substances. Therefore, it is important to assure that those in a condition where they face difficulties in controlling themselves are not served anymore or are made to leave, even before they start posing threats or annoying other patrons. Attention shall also be paid to guarantee that the ones not served do not manage to find intermediaries who would buy alcohol for them.

The other staff of nightlife entertainment venues can also handle potential offenders by applying a technique called 5Ds. It was developed to encourage bystander intervention when they face that someone is being sexually harassed. However, the method could be applied by the staff of nightlife entertainment spots themselves. And of course, it is always good to encourage other patrons not to stay passive and ignorant when they see something bad happening. 5Ds is a method that does not request any special training, the basic knowledge, and encouragement to apply it is sufficient. For example, it would be good to place posters in nightlife entertainment venues indicating the five options to be taken to confront sexual harassment.

5Ds is an acronym standing for the five options to be taken to confront sexual harassment – Direct, Delegate, Delay, Distract, and Document.

The first D is to directly intervene in a situation when you see somebody sexually harassing another person. This step requests clear communication to an offender that his conduct has been noted, and that nobody will allow sexual harassment to proceed. Sometimes it is best to communicate with the offender when the victim is not present because a public intervention can cause secondary victimization for a victim. However, when there is no way to get to talk with the offender alone, caring about the victim’s interests requests to intervene even in case publicity can not be avoided. What is important in these cases is to assure that the offender is the one to blame.

The second D asks for delegation of the suppression of sexual harassment to someone who is better prepared to respond, e.g. security staff of a nightlife entertainment venue. It should also be noted that every intervention requests at least two people – it is difficult for everyone to deal both with an offender and a victim being alone. Thus, asking for the help of others, be it the staff or other bystanders is a good thing to do. Victims shall not be left alone to watch what is happening between an offender and those trying to stop him or her.

The third D stands for documentation of sexual harassment for a victim to able to use the documentation as evidence in legal proceedings if he or she wishes to. Audio or video recording of what is happening between other people, especially – between people that you do not know personally is a tricky endeavor, always being on the brink of a breach of privacy of other people. However, if one sees that offender breaches the law himself or herself, the necessity to record his or her behavior could be sufficient to justify one’s actions. What however could not be justified in sharing the recording with anyone, except the people filmed or videotaped and law enforcement officers if necessary.

The fourth D applies to the distraction of an offender from a victim, this way allowing the victim to leave the place where he or she faces risks of sexual harassment. Alternatively, a victim himself or herself could be distracted and led away from where the risky behavior took place. Helping the victim to leave somewhat contradicts the approach that it is an offender who shall suffer consequences and not the victim. However, in some cases this alternative view could be necessary, e.g. when publicity of intervention would be unavoidable, there is no one around to provide immediate assistance in dealing with the offender, etc. It is however essential that every offender receives the blame after an opportunity for it arises, e.g. the victim leaves or assistance by others is provided.

The fifth D asks for a delayed intervention if direct intervention is not possible. Quite often an act of sexual harassment occurs unexpectedly and lasts a moment, making it impossible to intervene directly. What however is important is to understand that the consequences of such an act, the disturbed emotional condition of a victim last much longer. In this sense, even a delayed intervention, provision of emotional support to a victim, or blame expressed to an offender after the incident is over could be of value.

Although it has been stated from the very beginning that the model applies outside labor relations, problems related to labor relations exist in nightlife entertainment venues exist as well. It is often difficult to place in legal terms the sexual harassment that the staff of nightlife entertainment venues faces from patrons, although they are among the most common victims of sexual harassment taking place in nightlife. Ignorance of sexual harassment that the staff face or even wilful encouragement of the staff to place themselves in risky status, requesting the staff to dress in a sexual manner, does also create an atmosphere incentive for sexual harassment of patrons. Thus, every local entertainment venue shall start its efforts to prevent sexual harassment of its patrons from taking care of its own staff. For example, the staff members are forced to be much more tolerant of sexual harassment suffered when their salaries depend on tips from patrons. Taking care of all these issues could be a good starting point for introducing the model into routine activities of every pub or nightclub.

Victims shall be treated as the main figure in every incident of sexual harassment. It is most important to assure that the victim is provided sufficient protection and support when an incident takes place. Thus, what is most important to avoid are situations where the victim leaves a pub or nightclub after an incident while the offender stays. It should be communicated and clear that is an offender who faces consequences for every incident of sexual harassment.

It is also important to assure that the victim does not receive any blame for what happens to him or her. Most often victims of sexual harassment are women and stereotyped fear to be blamed for becoming a victim of sexual harassment is the main obstacle to applying for help. It might even be more difficult for male victims to apply for assistance because of a stereotype that men shall always be able to take of themselves. It makes it a bit easier to ask for assistance from a person who is of the same gender. Thus, it is good to assure that there are staff members representing different genders in every nightlife entertainment venue.

Patrons shall feel safe during nightlife, and one of the major preconditions for such a feeling is understanding that there are people who can take care of you in case of trouble. The staff member shall have enough knowledge and skills to engage in friendly communication with all the patrons and to communicate to them that they are there to provide all assistance and intervention if necessary. The staff shall also receive certain training on intervention into incidents occurring in a way that is victim-centered, which usually means intervention in a non-aggressive way, considering that a scandal can hurt the victim emotionally if not physically.

There should be clear ways established for victims to apply for help. Alert buttons or signs indicating media apps for communication with the staff have already been mentioned. However, some solutions enabling victims to call for help without attracting the offender’s attention could be introduced even without any additional technical equipment. The staff shall be taught to understand special signals communicated by victims. They might be verbal, as in the case of “ask for Angela” or “Angel’s shots”. “Ask for Angela” was a code name popularized by different campaigns throughout Europe, introducing a common approach that every patron who needs the support of the staff to face a sexual harasser or to leave the venue discretely, can ask to call a fictitious member of a staff named Angela. Thus, it is important for every member of the staff to have no doubt that Angela in the name for support needed, and not a person. Another option is to introduce “Angel shot”, a name of a fictitious cocktail, which means a call for help when ordered. “Angel shot” adds on to the “Ask for Angela” concept, because it allows identification of a type of support needed. Simple “Angel Shot” indicates a general need for support, “Angel Shot on the Rocks” means a need to call a taxi to take the victim out discretely, “Angel Shot Neat” is a code name for asking to be accompanied out to the victim’s car, and finally “Angel Shot with Lime” is the critical one, asking to call the police. While both “Ask for Angela” and “Angel Shot” are perfect ways to spread the message, both are based on secrecy, they are used for offender and other not to understand what the victim and staff members are talking about. Of course, the more popular “Ask for Angela” and “Angel Shot” become, the bigger number of victims knowing how to apply them, the larger is the risk that offenders will understand the code words also. Thus, an alternative approach could be needed to change code names and to find a way to communicate them in secret with potential victims, e.g. placing messages with code words in toilets, placing them on special coasters given to patrons that staff members consider to be potential victims, etc. Finally, the staff shall know the basic non-verbal calls for help when a risk of sexual crime is present, the one-handed sign where the palm is shown as if to give a high-five, then the thumb is tucked into the palm and the remaining four fingers lowered over it.

Staff should not be the only guardians of victims. First, victims shall be encouraged to protect themselves, e.g. taking note of potential victims using too much alcohol or sharing a note with a victim that he or she is communicating with a person who has previously noticed sexually harassing someone else. A practice to follow is when pubs encourage every group of friends visiting a pub to choose a chaperone  – the one who stays sober all night long and takes care of everybody else in the group, some pubs effectively support this practice by providing alcohol free cocktails to chaperones with significant discounts. It is usually good for chaperones to have some identification in a form of a bracelet or a sticker that they are trusted by their friends to intervene and to stop alcohol to be served for the friends who are approaching a condition of vulnerability. A practice for group of friends to wear the same bracelets or stickers could also act as a warning to potential offenders that a potential victim is watched by someone even if his or her friends are not around.

Care for the security of potential victims shall be constantly present. From the moment a patron enters a nightlife entertainment venue (identifying whether he or she faces risks of sexual harassment due to his or her appearance, condition, or behavior) till the moment a patron leaves (especially in cases of victims of actual sexual harassment leaving). In the latter case, it is worth checking whether the actual offender is not knocking around. Usually, in such cases, a victim should be advised to call a trusted taxi or to find a trusted accompaniment for the trip home. Special apps allowing one to find someone (with a profile verified beforehand) going from a nearby nightlife entertainment venue in the same direction as the victim is also worth popularizing. Volunteer initiatives to provide accompaniment in such cases could also be supported both by local business communities and municipalities.