Interview with Good Night Out Vancouver Co-Founder Ashtyn Bevan
By: Nancy Mitchell
Good Night Out Vancouver is a local, Canadian chapter of the larger Good Night Out campaign founded in the UK in 2014. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness on sexual harassment and assault that occur during nights out.
Women In Cities International emphasizes the need to eliminate harassment and assault in all spheres of society. We recognize the importance of raising awareness of appropriate night-out behaviour, the ways we can prevent harassment and assault on nights out, and how we can be active bystanders should harassment or assault occur. In this, we support campaigns like Good Night Out Vancouver and promote the work they are doing to make positive changes toward equality. We are pleased to feature an interview with the Vancouver campaign’s co-founder Ashtyn Bevan.
WICI: Since it’s inception how have Good Night Out’s mission, values, and goals changed or evolved?
ASHTYN: It’s been a wild 4 and a half years and although our practices have evolved and changed our mission, values and goals have stayed relatively the same. Our mission is vague: “We want to see a cultural shift in Vancouver’s arts, culture, and nightlife. We want safer nights out for all,” and its applied to all the work we have done. When we first launched our main model of activism focused around workshops and education and although its still a core practice for GNO we have adapted in order to stay more prevalent and work within our cities unique arts and cultural scene thus providing at-event safety outreach and help with policy and prevention plans. The shift to outreach is correlated with the fast staff turnover we see in the service industry, so we found venues would be more inclined to hire our services for specific events, rather than hosting a workshop every couple of months.
WICI: Good Night Out Vancouver is a chapter of the movement started in the UK. What sparked the desire to open a chapter specifically in Vancouver?
ASHTYN: While I was in my last semester at SFU, we had to create a communication project under the lens of “Communication for Social Change”. While at school I was also working a part time job at a local nightclub and I was appalled by the behaviour I was witnessing and experiencing at work. So with some research (solely for my school assignment at first), I reached out to GNO and Hollaback to find out more about their initiatives. Although the UK and Vancouver have vastly different nightlife economies, they were happy to share their branding and mission so we could bring it here to Vancouver. Hollaback Vancouver (a street-based harassment campaign) was run by Stacey Forrester and quickly after meeting we became feminist soul mates and merged our passions to bring GNO values to Vancouver.
WICI: Much of your work focuses on targeting youth and spaces largely populated by young people (clubs, music festivals, etc). Can you explain the importance of reaching young people with your message of anti-harassment?
ASHTYN: Out of an awareness of the links between alcohol consumption and sexual aggression its important to interrupt these behaviours specifically with young people going out so they can have the skills and education on how to recognize, interrupt, and prevent sexual harassment and assault on nights out.
WICI: How does Good Night Out work to eliminate norms related to sexual harassment, and change the mindsets of individuals to prevent harassment in the long-term?
ASHTYN: With our education program, we break down the stereotypes, the stats surrounding sexual assault in Canada, and “risk for sexual assault perpetration” that are present in Vancouver’s nightlife and entertainment culture.
Our training highlights three “Risks for Perpetuation” in relation to sexual harassment and sexual assault. These risks include drugs and alcohol, bystander apathy and social norms.
With providing examples, working through real-life scenarios and teaching bystander intervention we aim to provide people with the tools to identify risk factors, as well as safety assets and teach mitigation strategies and skills that are relevant for people at work but in their day to day life.
WICI: The Good Night Out mission is intersectional and focuses on racism and homophobia. How do racism and homophobia connect with harassment and assault, especially in public spaces?
ASHTYN: We approach all our work with an intersectional lens and we try to educate people that harassment at its core is based on power dynamics and is not an isolated incident. So we know that sexual violence and misconduct are under-reported even when people have the privilege of access to support services and guidance through reporting institutions. Racialized women, transgender and gender variant folks suffer disproportionate incidents of violence and often also experience a lack of sensitive, safe post-assault services.
WICI: It is important for operating venues to be aware that harassment can occur within their establishments. What measures/changes do you think bars, clubs, and music venues could adopt to help eliminate (or be allies in eliminating) harassment and sexual assault?
ASHTYN: YES!!! The number of venues within the city who state “harassment doesn’t happen here” still outweighs the number of venues we have partnered with or trained.
There is no such thing as a safe space…. But when a venue understands consent, fosters diversity and provides outstanding service to their most vulnerable patron its a step in the right direction towards consent culture.
Sexual harassment and assault is a product of entrenched social norms. By acknowledging the behaviour as unacceptable, supporting the victim, addressing the perpetrator, and acting accordingly, you are INTERRUPTING the norms that allow harassment and assault to happen.
This interruption is a critical piece in preventing sexual assault and moving our norms as a society towards “consent culture”.
WICI: What are the future goals of Good Night Out?
ASHTYN: We have quite a few things in the works for the new year which includes the permanent programming of our Granville Street Team. Our goals our endless but follow us on our social channels to keep up to date on what we are doing.