A Savvy Girl’s Guide to Dealing with Harassment in a Bar


By Aleks Trkulja

When I’m not interning for Tanya in her Surry Hills practice, I pour beers at an inner city pub in Sydney. One Sunday, during the day, I was verbally harassed by a group of men who were drinking in the pub. Normally this particular venue does not attract these kinds of people. It was a rare occasion, and bad luck that I happened to have served them.

They ordered drinks by instruction rather than as a question with no sign of “please” or “thank you”. They asked for triple shots, which I refused to make due to my Responsible Service of Alcohol, and because attitudes like that don’t need to be fuelled further by alcohol.

After calmly and clearly setting boundaries by explaining my responsibility as a bartender, and informing them that as a human I  don’t appreciate being badgered or harassed, I suggested that they should be polite, or they would have to leave. Their response to these requests was to verbally harass me:

“Give us triple shots!”

“She’s so hot when she’s angry.”

“F**k I love it when she’s mad at me, she’s so feisty.”

“Haha, awww don’t be mad! Smile! Show us that pretty smile.”

This encounter shook me. I felt powerless and angry. I was helpless. I asked them to stop. Told the manager to ask them to leave (which they did, while I shed a few angry tears in the back room).  But what else could be done? Even once they were asked to leave by the manager they continued to argue and resist instruction.

This infuriated me. Where they raised by wolves? How do you manage to walk out into the world thinking you could treat everyone like shit, yet you only deserve the best? This inconsistency baffled me. I rarely encounter these types of people, but it made me think about how many people (both men and women) have fallen victim to people who think that are exempt of the social rules that establish respect between strangers.

So I’ve put together a few tips on how to manage verbal harassment.

Set boundaries

  • When confronted, verbally communicate what is not acceptable behaviour.
  • An example of a setting boundary and explaining the consequence of crossing it is: ‘Please don’t harass me while I am serving you. If you continue I will have to ask you to leave.’

  • This formula can be changed up to apply to any situation, for example: “Please don’t harass me, I’m having drinks with my friends, I don’t want to talk to you. If you continue to harass me and my friends, I will have to let the security guard know because you’re making us uncomfortable.”

Have patience

  • Remember you’re dealing with someone who is clearly not as thoughtful as you. Take some deep breaths and remind yourself how tiny the words coming from their mouths really are.
  • Despite how frustrated they make you feel, remember there is not Netflix and pizza in prison!!!!!  Keep your cool.

Avoid interaction

  • A simple way to limit the amount of harassment you receive is to avoid the person doing the harassing.
  • This can be difficult but its oh so worth it! Don’t give them the airtime that they seek.  Out of sight, out of mind! Surround yourself with the beautiful humans that treat you well instead.