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  • Writer's pictureSAFE Bar Network

Let’s Talk About Sexual Harassment.

If someone asked you to explain sexual harassment, could you do it? Go ahead, give it a try!

bartender, active bystander, bystander intervention, bar training, sexual harassment, sexual assault, safe bar, safe bar network

My guess is that you would do a pretty good job explaining it and that your definition would have some combination of the words unwanted and sexual - you would be spot on. The concept of sexual harassment is pretty straight forward. What complicates our understanding of sexual harassment is communication, relationships, power.

Sexual harassment is anything unwanted and sexual. The person who is deciding if it is unwanted and sexual is the person who is experiencing the discomfort. Simply, if I’m telling a sexual joke, you hear it and your uncomfortable, then I sexually harassed you. Check out this quick video to see an example.

We all know what it means for something to be unwanted. So, what does it mean for something to be sexual? It's sexual if it has to do with someone’s gender (ex. he throws like a girl), sexuality (ex. that’s gay), or body (ex. you look sexy).

Now the complicated part. Sexual harassment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens at work, with friends, with customers, and with family members. These relationships, how much power we have in a situation and our comfort talking about sexual harassment and boundaries impact these experiences for us.

For example, if I’m going out with my girlfriends and one of them tells me I look sexy my response is going to be, thanks! If an acquaintance at diner tells me I look sexy my response is going to be, silence and “the look”. If a stranger at the bar tells me I look sexy I’m going to be totally creeped out and looking for my friends to help me out. The statement is the same, you look sexy, but based on my relationships and how comfortable I feel in the situation my experience and the harm I feel is different.

bartender, active bystander, bystander intervention, bar training, sexual harassment, sexual assault, safe bar, safe bar network

Talk to anyone working in the hospitality and entertainment industries and they will tell you that sexual harassment not only exists but that it is prevalent. When people don’t feel comfortable confronting sexual harassment, the result is that this uncomfortable and unsafe behavior becomes the norm.

That is exactly why the SAFE Bar Network exists. We work in partnership with the staff at bars and other alcohol-serving venues to create a workplace culture where people use active bystander skills to address sexual harassment and create a safe and comfortable environment for customers and staff.

We see the hospitality and entertainment industries making positive changes every day!

To learn more about joining the SAFE Bar Network contact us at

If you have a favorite bar, restaurant or night club encourage them to join the SAFE Bar Network. They can learn more at

To learn more about active bystander skills check out our blog post, Obstacles. What obstacles? 3 Full Proof Everyday Active Bystander Skills.

There are everyday active bystanders practicing these skills every day. Watch their stories here, Everyday Active Bystanders.

Interested in learning more about bystander intervention? Visit our friends at With Us Center for Bystander Intervention.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault our partners can help. Visit and

To learn more about the field of sexual violence response and prevention visit and

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