Council Member Rafael Espinal, Bushwick’s own Night Mayor, is tackling sexual harassment.
The elected official introduced legislation last week that intends to codify consent and safety from sexual harassment in nightlife establishments that will strengthen safe spaces.
“Consent isn’t just sexy – it’s mandatory,” said Espinal. “That’s the message we hope to send to all New Yorkers, including those who participate in our city’s vibrant nightlife scene.”
The package of bills that was introduced requires nightlife venue staff to receive bystander training in their hiring process, sets rules for signage about sexual harassment and assault policies and directing patrons to additional resources. The Office of Nightlife at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment will also be required to post resources on its website, and assist businesses with providing training.
Council Member Espinal’s legislative package represents a first-its-kind effort by a city government to push for consent policy in New York’s nightlife venues.
Espinal said that in a post-#MeToo city, this legislation is an important step for New York City.
“Unfortunately, harassment is so common at some nightlife venues that many women see it as part of the experience of going out. That is unacceptable, and our city should be taking the lead on educating people about consent,” he said.
The Councilmember cites a 2017 survey by YouGov/Drinkaware, a United Kingdom based website that offers stats and advice on alcohol, that 72% of people aged 18-24 years old reported having witness sexual harassment in some form during a night out.
One of the first things this legislation intends to teach is that the word “yes” is important to hear when identifying consent, so why not partner with the Bushwick venue House of Yes to get the job done?
In order to accomplish his goals, Council Member Espinal has partnered with Anya Sapozhnikova and Kae Burke, who co-founded House of Yes, to launch an awareness campaign about consent.
“If we want our venues to be safer, everyone needs to be constantly reminded of the importance of consent and what it means- an enthusiastic, verbal yes,” said Sapozhnikova.
House of Yes already does its’ part. The venue has posted signage for their consent policies for almost two years. In addition, they’ve created a section of their website as a resource organizations that want to follow their example. The website features high-resolution printable versions of House of Yes’s consent signs.
“We are proud to partner with Council Member Espinal on this campaign, and urge the City Council to expeditiously pass this legislation,” said Sapozhnikova
She strongly believes that posting signage at nightlife venues about consent helps bring the issue to the forefront.
“It’s time we took this policy city-wide, and put an emphasis on the problem of sexual harassment in our clubs, bars and venues.” said Sapozhnikova.
Cover image courtesy of Sarthak Navjivan