Beyond the Bar, a new program in York, PA, trains bartenders and servers to recognize potential sexual abuse situations and prevent them from happening. Who better to look out for sexual predators than the eyes and ears of a restaurant or bar?
“Alcohol is implicated in sexual violence more than any other drug,” according to Kristen Sechrist, who works at the YWCA to help men and women recover from the aftereffects of date rape.
“People are taught to watch for predators in their workplace, school and neighborhood,” Sechrist said, “but who is looking out for them when their guard is down and they’re enjoying a night out?”
The program, led by York County Victim Services, ACCESS-York and Planned Parenthood, includes a free 30-minute training program. Bars are then given informative coasters and consent packets for their customers, filled with a condom, breath mint and tips for how to ask for consent.
But bartenders and servers still play the most important role: they are taught to be proactive and look out for certain warning signals, like a man sipping one drink all night while he buys a woman multiple shots. They can also watch for unattended drinks, offering to refresh or change the drink if they suspect the use of a drug.
The most striking element of this program is that bartenders are expected to actually step in and take action: discussing the situation with patrons and making sure they feel safe, asking patrons if they need a taxi or help calling a friend, walking them out of the restaurant or bar and even offering them a ride home.
This sounds like an amazing program to me, with one caveat: offering a drunk patron a ride home could lead to big trouble for the bartender, and stopping a sexual predator in his or her tracks could be potentially dangerous, so I’d hope there are safety measures put in place.
The key factor here, though, is the effort to counteract the bystander culture so common in bars, the “It’s not my problem” mentality. That, to me, is a great thing. What do you think, readers?