Page last updated: October 18, 2017
Campaign cuts drunken advances in the UK

A recent UK publicity campaign in the UK has helped combat alcohol-fuelled sexual contact, recent research has found. Dr Matthew Wood, from Brighton University and Professor Paurav Shukla from Essex Business School evaluated a campaign by Drinkaware following a campaign that the charity developed in response to a Yougov survey in 2016 in which 35% of women and 9% of men reported receiving unwanted sexual contact on a night out, ranging from grabbing and groping to serious sexual assault. Drinkaware’s campaign message was ‘If you wouldn’t do it or tolerate it when sober, then you shouldn’t when drunk’ and it targeted young adults in the North West of England through cinemas, advertising, posters, Spotify, YouTube and social media.

The campaign team surveyed more than 2,000 people before and after the campaign and their feedback was compared with those from a control group who had not been exposed to the campaign. The evaluation by Dr Wood and Professor Shukla found that the campaign was a success. The experimental group with campaign recall demonstrated a significant change in their attitudes to harmful drinking behaviours and unwanted sexual attention compared to the control group. A number of gender differences as well as drink-enjoyment-related differences pre- and post-campaign were observed. Female respondents who were able to recall the campaign demonstrated a significantly lower tolerance of unwanted sexual attention than those who were unable to recall it in either the experimental or control regions. The campaign had limited impact on people who enjoy drunken night outs (DNOs). However, those who do not enjoy DNOs demonstrated significantly higher negative attitudes towards harmful drinking post-campaign recall.

Dr Wood said: “Our evaluation showed that targeted social advertising can be effective in re-establishing boundaries, leading to a positive impact on anti-social behaviours.” Professor Shukla said: “It has been observed by police in the UK that unwanted sexual attention in pubs, bars and nightclubs has become so common that people don’t even bother reporting it… Our evaluation showed that targeted social advertising can be effective in re-establishing boundaries, leading to a positive impact on anti-social behaviours.”

Following the research, Drinkaware have introduced a new initiative as part of the on-going ‘If You Wouldn’t Sober, You Shouldn’t Drunk’ campaign. The ‘It’s Ok to Ask’ initiative is designed to encourage bystanders to speak out when they witness someone being harassed by a drunken individual.

The campaign is being rolled out in cinemas, on the All4 digital channel, online and in venues across the North West of England in particular. It is designed to encourage those who see sexual harassment taking place to either step in where it is safe to do so on the side of the person being targeted or alert staff and security to the problem. The mantras of the campaign are: ‘Spot It’ (is something going on?), ‘Check It’ (is it safe to intervene?) and ‘Speak Out’ (if safe, ask the person being harassed if they need help or speak to security). Venues and bar operators are also being encouraged to participate and help crack down on such behaviour.

Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: “Drunken sexual harassment is seen by too many young people as part and parcel of a night out. The aim of the ‘It’s OK to Ask’ campaign is to empower people to challenge this behaviour... Operators can play their part by supporting bystanders who come to them for help and by taking the issue seriously, helping to foster a positive and safe social environment where drunken sexual harassment is not tolerated.” Source: You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk: a behavioural change approach to changing attitudes and responses to unwanted sexual attention in pubs and clubs. Wood M; Shukla P Alcohol and Alcoholism, published early online 30 August 2017.

All text and images © 2003 Alcohol In Moderation.