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July 31, 2016 | by  | in News Splash |
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Bar takes sexual harassment seriously, due to immense public scrutiny

Vinyl bar has been criticized for ignoring claims of sexual harassment made by female patrons.

The incident gained traction on social media after Vinyl deleted a post on their Facebook page that detailed Jay Thompson-Munn’s experience on July 15.

Thompson-Munn said her and another female friend were approached at Vinyl by a man who seemed “intoxicated, or high on something—and should have been removed from the premises.” This man made numerous unwanted sexual advances on them.

The man’s advances persisted despite being refused by the women, and continued after he was pushed away by the women’s male friends.

The women reported the man’s behaviour to a bartender who briefly conferred with another staff member and told them “well, you’re in a bar!”

The bouncer told the women he couldn’t leave his post at the door to help.

“It is deeply concerning to all women in Wellington that our safety isn’t a concern to bar staff,” Thompson-Munn said.

The other patron involved told Salient she was shocked by management’s reaction to their complaint.

“Instead of admitting they made a mistake, they tried to delete evidence of our complaint. I feel we were strongly dismissed and not taken seriously.”

The women—who recorded their experience with Vinyl bar staff through tweets collated on Storify—said they had emailed management privately, but when they received no response decided to post their story to the bar’s public Facebook page.

In response to the negative feedback, it was reported that a staff member “sent a group message asking their contacts to boost good feedback” on the Vinyl page. A move which has been criticized for creating a false sense of safety, despite the allegations.

According to the woman interviewed, it has changed her perspective of Wellington nightlife and caused her to question the notion that harassment is an acceptable and expected part of a night out.

“You talk to any of your friends about a night out, and there are stories galore of bums being touched, creeps, being followed, and generally being made to feel uncomfortable. I refuse to accept these anymore. We deserve better and we deserve to have our complaints taken seriously. If something like this happens it is so important to speak up.”

New Zealand Police Senior Sergeant Andrew Smith said that, under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, “a licensee or a manager of any licensed premises commits an offence by allowing violent, quarrelsome, insulting, or disorderly conduct to take place on the premises… the licensee needs to create a safe and enjoyable drinking environment for all patrons.”

Vinyl Bar has since uploaded a statement to Facebook expressing their apologies to the women who were “hurt” by the harassment, as well as to the wider community “who are rightfully disappointed in us.”

Bar owners Greig and Leon stated they are “reaching out” to the Wellington sexual violence sector to help them train staff in “ethical bystanding and dealing with sexual harassment”.

VUWSA Equity Officer Chrissy Brown applauded the women for coming forward.

“It put the issue on the agenda and spread within the wider community to those who care about it. It also put pressure on the bar. I was very happy with how they responded. They took full responsibility for the issue, and outlined what they were actively doing to overcome the problem.”

 

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