Victim Support

When sexual harassment is faced victims need support even when the incident is over, sometimes – even when they managed to avoid sexual harassment. Feeling that one’s dignity has been harmed or was endangered by someone’s else behavior, especially – when the offender is someone that the victim meets for the first time, is a feeling that is difficult to cope. Thus, certain support is required. It should however be noted that victim support is a professional activity, that requires special knowledge and skills that can not be acquired in a one-day training. Thus, it is not an option for the staff of nightlife venues to engage in victim support proper sensu (initiatives to establish nightlife victim support centers by local authorities or collaborations with nightlife entertainment spots would, however, be of value).

Some support to victims should however be provided immediately after an incident takes place. There are three forms of support that the staff shall be ready to provide.

First, emotional support to a victim shall be provided. It is very important to communicate with a victim and it is not him or her to be blamed for what has happened. When an offense has been committed the offender is the only one to be blamed and sanctioned. Thus, even when a victim decides to leave the venue the staff shall do their best to communicate this message (although no emotional support could help if the victim sees that the offender stays at the venue).

Emotional support shall not be understood as consultation by a psychologist. Everyone not having proper knowledge shall avoid “playing a psychologist” – it is never a time and a place to do that. What is needed after an incident of sexual harassment is to be there for the victim to have someone to talk to about what the victim feels. It is important to ask the victim how he or she feels, but it is more important to listen to the victim, to listen without any judgments or advice. It is also important to communicate to the victim two important messages, they are to be communicated orally even if it seems that everyone understands them automatically – that the victim is not alone after the incident, and that it is not him or her to blame for not acting carefully enough, for not being strong enough, or for something else.

It is important that emotional support to victims is provided in a confidential way. Therefore, it is always good to have a place on the premises of a nightlife venue where it is possible to talk with a victim without anyone else being present.

Second, staff members should be ready to refer victims to victim support organizations, to share information about where they can apply for more thorough help and what support they can receive there. Victims quite often consider law enforcement to be the only institution that can aid after a crime was suffered. Therefore, staff members shall have a proper understanding of the concept of victim support themselves and be able to explain that to victims.

There can be no pressure on to victims to report what happened to the police. However, it is no less important that victims shall not be discouraged to report. The fact that certain manifestations of sexual harassment took place in a certain nightlife entertainment spot shall not be considered negatively. Quite the opposite, the fact that a pub was ready to react should receive a kind of acknowledgment from the part of LEAs and municipal authorities. The staff shall also be ready to provide basic information to victims on how to report the incident, what are the first steps in the criminal procedure, and what obligations and rights would victim have if a criminal case is started.

It is important that all communication with victims is based on a victim-centered approach. It is the most important for every victim to feel that people providing support believe what he or she is telling them, that he or she is the only one to decide what steps shall be taken or avoided, and that his or her dignity is all that matters at the moment.