The growing numbers are concerning, especially when you look at how the numbers increased from 80 nightclub molestation cases in 2016 to 107 cases reported in 2017. That is a 33.8 percent increase within the span of a year.
On September 5, the police launched a “smart clubbing” campaign in cooperation with many nightclubs. The goal of the campaign is to teach patrons how they can best protect themselves against sexual assault and to set-up nightclubs to be able to assist those who are being molested and are under duress and therefore cannot communicate clearly.
The campaign is supported by the National Crime Prevention Council and major public entertainment outlets in Clarke Quay, Orchard Road, Marina Bay and Sentosa.
Nightclub staff have been trained to remain alert and watch drunk patrons who might pose any kind of threat to others, and posters and educational materials have been put up in clubs to educate club-goers on how they can stay safe.
Since last month, the police have circulated crime advisories and videos that teach people how to take precautions against and respond to acts of sexual assault.
While these efforts are commendable, they are certainly not enough. Nightclubs could definitely do more to help protect their customers against non-consensual sexual contact, but the responsibility to protect oneself ultimately lies with people.
The way that nightclubs are set-up encourage intimacy (as well as shady behaviour) – the lighting is usually very dim (supposedly to set an atmosphere) and some spots are very narrow.
Also, club-goers usually adhere to a more risqué dress code for their nights out on the town. While it should not matter at all what someone wears, nightclub sociologist Yale Fox said that the “sexier” style of dressing can encourage sexual attraction.
Attraction, yes. But let us be clear that being sexually attracted to someone does not mean you can touch them inappropriately without their consent. Attraction does not beget assault.
When you add alcohol into the mix, you see a lot of inhibitions and thought processes go out the window. It is for these factors that nightclubs carry a high inherent risk of sexual crimes.
While it would be easy for nightclub owners to shy away from taking any responsibility (they might say that all they are doing is providing a venue for people to have fun, nothing more), they need to strengthen their stances against molestation and sexual assault of any kind by letting offenders know that they cannot get away what they have done.
Perhaps they can come up with a system where people being violated can report inappropriate behaviour without 1) being noticed by the offender and 2) fearing that nightclub managers will just ignore them.
In the United States, some nightclubs have what they call “angel shots”, which was invented by a bar in Florida. The purpose of the “angel shots” is so that club-goers can ask for help without bring obvious that they are doing so.
“Angel shots” can be ordered “neat”, “on the rocks”, or “paired with lime” — different codewords that alert bartenders of any danger the club-goer might be in.
These codewords are changed on a regular basis to ensure that the signal for help is understood only by the bartenders and the club patrons. The bartenders can then alert security to remove the person who is posing a threat and ensure the safety of the one being threatened.
Something like these “angel shots” can help alert the attention of the authorities in an under-the-radar sort of way and can help victims keep calm and remain anonymous.
Bouncers, floor men and club managers could be more clear about their responsibilities in preventing and dealing with cases of molestation. Additional training for all nightclub staff to deal with situations like this would also be a plus.
Surveillance cameras in strategic locations will also be helpful. If the cameras are prominent easy to spot, they can act as deterrents to potential offenders.
It is the duty of nightclubs to provide a safe and secure environment that does not tolerate molestation, any other forms of assault or any inappropriate behaviour.
The safety of patrons must be a top priority for nightclubs. In turn, patrons need to bring with them good old common sense when out clubbing.
Go out with people you trust – those who can watch your back while you are out. Watch yourself, take care of yourself and those you are with.
And very importantly – if you see or hear of any incidents of molestation or inappropriate behaviour, do not hesitate to report it to the club’s authorities immediately and to the police when necessary.
While it might be easy to dismiss little groping touches here and there, we must never make light of that kind of behaviour. Let’s call it what it is – sexual assault.