The hospitality industry is slowly coming to terms with a reality it has long known about but neglected to address. It is becoming harder and harder to deny that the dangers of sexual assault exist in the trendy restaurant and bar scene of Los Angeles, California.
Late last year, a group of women launched a website, The Reality of Sexual Assault in the Cocktail Community, exposing what they described as rampant sexual assault in Los Angeles’ bar industry. Sixteen female bartenders shared harrowing first-person accounts of the sexual assault they allegedly suffered at the hands of a well-known male bartender based in the city. They claimed the man used his position to intimidate, harass and assault female colleagues.
The website serves as a wake-up call for an industry that has long allowed such incidents to go unchecked. While the stories point out the actions of one man, they are not isolated cases. The authors highlight the need for a public forum to spread awareness about sexual assault in their industry and encourage an open conversation. They also hope to empower victims to speak up and report crimes.
One of the website’s authors wrote, “[Victims of sexual assault] worry about fear of retaliation, fear of being blamed or shamed, fear of the criminal justice system not being effective or being embarrassed about what happened. This fear is perpetuating the problem and preventing justice.”
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are unacceptable and illegal in the workplace. However, such incidents often get buried when they occur in an industry that is defined by alcohol. Those who commit sexual assault after drinking end up blaming alcohol for their behavior. Even victims of such acts sometimes use their attacker’s intoxication as an excuse.
When sexual harassment and sexual assault are considered the price of working in the bar industry, they are effectively accepted and allowed to become widespread. The first step to ending such behavior is to recognize that it is not okay, no matter the circumstances or the type of workplace.