- 06 Dec 23
Safe Gigs Ireland are driving the move towards responsible, safe and enjoyable nightlife experiences.
Everyone deserves a safe night out. Unfortunately for many in Ireland, this simple statement is little more than empty rhetoric. Ask any woman you know, she’ll likely recall a time when she was sexually harassed at a bar. EU Research suggests that 79% of women aged 18-24 have experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct on a night out.
The evidence is clear, discrimination and sexual violence happen in nightlife settings far too often. Safe Gigs Ireland is looking to put an end to this. Founded at the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork, the initiative began after a group of students came seeking guidance on increasing safety at an upcoming gig. At that moment, there were no resources, calling for the creation of Safe Gigs and starting their ever-growing campaign for nighttime safety.
Sexual harassment comes in many forms, from unwanted remarks to sexually motivated violence. Often hand-in hand with sexual harassment is spiking. Its impact is dramatic, people lose consciousness and hours of their lives without knowing what happened. In many ways, it’s the perfect crime – it can happen anywhere to anyone. There’s little testing which can be done and unfortunately, Garda figures are lower than the realistic number of instances, with many victims feeling that they weren’t believed by police.
Through anonymous surveys, Safe Gig’s Spiking hub encourages people to report spiking, contributing to data and providing information in a situation where victims are otherwise powerless. Safe Gigs Ireland are also spearheading a cultural shift away from victim blaming. A huge contributor to sexual harassment and spiking, it justifies and makes it easier for perpetrators to do what they do.
‘Cover your drinks’, should be, ’Don’t spike’. Flipping the narrative reaffirms the notion that spiking and sexual misconduct are unacceptable, while also helping people feel less ashamed and more willing to speak out. Bad behaviour doesn’t come from the use of drugs or alcohol, or how people dress, it comes from bad behaviour and people knowing they can get away with it.
Bad actors can turn up anywhere, but they’re not as inclined to turn up someplace where their actions aren’t tolerated. This much-needed attitudinal shift is embodied by the Safe Gigs charter, which aims to change the nightlife industry’s mindset of passive acceptance to one of proactive safety and duty of care. It outlines expectations for venues, providing easily implementable guidelines, ensuring the safety of attendees and staff.
It includes five main elements: zero tolerance, planning, training, believing victims and action.
Each aspect is essential. Zero tolerance requires venues to state clearly that they don’t tolerate any form of harassment. Planning involves diligent risk assessment, consulting with staff as well as customers and asking questions such as ‘What can happen in this venue if we’re not on watch?’ and having everyone from bar staff to security on board.
Taking patrons seriously when they suspect foul or need a break is of paramount importance. Vulnerable people who report feeling unwell are often thrown out onto the street, where they are then put at an even greater risk. Naturally, no change will happen unless the protocol is acted upon. Ultimately, it’s about being prepared and thinking in advance.
Minister Helen McEntee has worked closely with Safe Gigs Ireland, assuring that, as part of the upcoming drastic changes to Ireland’s nightlife legislation, venues will not be able to renew licences without accepting the charter and committing to providing safer nightlife experiences.
Thankfully, many venues and organisations have taken the charter on board, emphasising the need for community and industry involvement in creating safer environments .
Students in Cork have even suggested projects like “Safe Gaffs” – translating the ethos to house parties. Safe Gigs Ireland represents a movement towards responsible, safe and enjoyable nightlife experiences. Advocating for comprehensive changes will not only help boost the nightlife economy by encouraging more people to go out, but help provide enjoyable evenings for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, orientation or background.