Sexual assault in nightclubs is rising and Georgia’s trying to prevent it

Sexual assault is a big issue in Atlanta’s nightlife. Be sure to know your limits, never drink alone and be aware of the environment at all times. Photo by Hannah Greco | The Signal

Georgia’s fighting back against sexually aggressive behaviours with laws, regulations, and raising awareness on sexual attacking methods in Downtown’s nightlife.

On Jan. 25 the Senate read and referred Senate Bill 45 (SB 45), sponsored by state Sen. Lawrence Walker III, targeting the act of “upskirting”, the practice of taking a pictures under a woman’s skirt without her permission.

Walker told The Signal the idea for the bill was sparked after an incident in Houston County Georgia, where a Publix worker covertly took a video under the skirt of an unsuspecting shopper. The employee was apprehended and brought to court, but was let go without any charges, because there’s currently no law against his actions.

“They said it was not an invasion of privacy, because it didn’t take place on private property,” he  said. “We want to make sure our laws reflect that this is not acceptable.”

The bill would file upskirting as a misdemeanor on the first offense and after two or more times the offender will face felony charges, five years in jail and a possible fine of up to $100,000.

This is another step taken by Georgia legislature to prevent mischievous sexual behaviors in public places. In July 2016, House Bill (HB 152) was passed, requiring that a person must be 21 years of age or older to enter bars or any establishment where 75 percent or more of the revenue is acquired by the sale of alcohol.

A loophole in the law allows for establishments that sell alcohol to give entrance to underage individuals if they define themselves as “entertainment facilities”.

According to the IRS, an ‘entertainment facility’ is “any property you own, rent, or use for entertainment,” and typically does not require any expense including“expenses for depreciation and operating costs such as rent, utilities, maintenance, and protection”. But under that definition nightclubs are not considered entertainment facilities and are therefore required to follow the law.

And those night clubs may be the prime zones for sexual predators looking for targets.

According to the Atlanta-based Murray Law Firm (MLF), which specializes in sexual assault, there are particular actions that employees of bars and nightclubs have to look out for, when it comes to sexual assault, including “up-skirting” along with pressing up against someone on the dance floor, and groping.

Targets in nightclubs

According to the 2014 study ‘Blurred Lines?’ Sexual Aggression and Barroom Culture men are increasingly more aggressive when in an environment similar to a bar.

According to the study, “about one-third of the incidents involved intentional aggression on the part of the male initiator—that is, the initiator engaged in sexual actions that he knew were unwanted, minimally causing the target discomfort but sometimes causing more serious distress including forcing her to leave the area or bar.

Juliana Kubala, senior lecturer in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, said that women are targeted more often than men in bars and are then sexually assaulted. She said there are constructed “scripts” where the male role is described as a predator and the female takes the role of prey, regardless if they give consent.

“[A man’s] sexuality is associated with being active. Men are supposed to ‘get’ women. It’s not about consent in the script.” she said.“These narrative scripts are heightened in certain kinds of ways, because these spaces are also about the production of gender behavior. I think for women the social scripts says they’re supposed to be passive. They’re supposed to wait to be chosen.”

But a rising concern factor in the bar scene are date rape drugs, like Rohypnol. According to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Rohypnol is typically used in sexual assault cases and can mimic intoxication, while clearing the victim’s memory after the fact.

“Rohypnol® is also misused to physically and psychologically incapacitate women targeted for sexual assault. The drug is usually placed in the alcoholic drink of an unsuspecting victim to incapacitate them and prevent resistance to sexual assault. The drug leaves the victim unaware of what has happened to them.”

Know your limits!

A Grady Rape Crisis Center (GRCC) spokeswoman specified three ways in which women can minimize the risk of sexual assault. Always be surrounded by girlfriends, never leave your drink unattended, and never leave with someone you’ve just met.

Dr. Laura Salazar, School of Public Health Professor, agreed with GRCC and went further into depth on how women can minimize the risk of sexual assault. She said that the most important rule is to never go out alone, instead always be accompanied by a group of friends and designate a “mom” of the group, who will stay sober and keep track of everyone.

“Go with people that you know have similar values that you can trust. Have someone that won’t drink that can look for the others to make sure that they’re okay. Start a group chat to make sure you’re all okay. Have a plan, so everyone knows what is expected. That is the best safety measure,” Salazar said.

Salazar said it’s important for students to know their alcohol limits especially when it comes to freshman who may or may not have had alcohol prior. An increase amount of alcohol can impair a person’s ability at assess a dangerous situation.

“Know your limits alcohol-wise. Before you go to a bar and club know your limits. Especially for freshmen. You should know your limits before, so you can assess your risks. If you start doing shots you are less able to asses your risk. You always want to be sharp,” Salazar said.

She reminded women that they should be “wary of guys and men you don’t know” and that it is acceptable to be paranoid of unfamiliar men, but the only way to be aware of your surroundings is by not being overly intoxicated.

“You want to have fun, but still have your guard up. That’s why knowing your limit on alcohol is important because, with too much alcohol you can’t keep your guard up.”

Salazar encouraged women to not be nice, when they feel uncomfortable or pressured by a man who is giving them unwanted attention. She addressed that some women may feel that they don’t want to be a disturbance, but if they feel uncomfortable they should always speak up.

“It’s OK to not be nice. If a guy is touching you on your waist or arm and he’s bother you, tell him it’s not cool. I think in a social situation women don’t want to make a big deal about it and cause a scene,” she said. “[There are] some guys that are very tenacious and you don’t want to cause a scene, but sometimes you need to not be nice, so that he knows you’re with your friends and you don’t want to be bothered.”

Salazar said that it is also important to keep the venue in mind the venue. She suggested that women should be observant of the men to women ratio and to know the reputation of the club/bar that they plan to attend.

“Know the reputation of the bar and club you’re going to. If [you notice] there are more guys than girls and it’s going to be a ‘sausage feast’ as they call it, you might want to reconsider. Keep in mind if the place is known for sexually aggressive men. Try to find out where your going first from other people,” Salazar said.

What can bars do to help?

According to MLF, bars and nightclubs are obligated by law to protect their customers from any “foreseen” harms and in any event that a customer is harmed they have the right to prosecute.

“Should a nightclub owner or manager fail in this legal duty, victims of nightclub sexual assault may elect to pursue a legal claim for their injuries and suffering.”

MLF has targeted specific ways in which nightclubs or bars can be more efficient in protecting their customers from sexual assault. They encourage employees to look after customers that may have had a little too much to drink by calling a cab. They also recommend installing cameras that are being monitored at all times, and hiring security that is vigilant and will notice if a guest is leaving with some they didn’t come with originally.

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