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Training program teaches bar employees sexual assault prevention strategies

UNC Student Wellness Instructor, Annie Peacock, Carrboro. Background: Albert Thrower, Chapel Hill.
UNC Student Wellness Instructor, Annie Peacock, Carrboro. Background: Albert Thrower, Chapel Hill.

As UNC grapples with how best to prevent sexual assault on campus, local bar employees met Tuesday to discuss their role in keeping patrons safe.

The training and outreach program, called “Raise the Bar,” promotes awareness of sexual assault in bars and provides bar staff with a plan of action to prevent it, said Arianna Timko, an organizer of the program.

UNC Student Wellness, which hosted the program, collaborated with community volunteers to offer training to teach bar staff in the Chapel Hill area how to prevent drug- and alcohol-facilitated sexual assault.

“We want bars to raise awareness for their staff,” Timko said.

“Bar staff know what (sexual assault) is, they just don’t necessarily call it ‘drug-facilitated sexual assault.’ They see the situations, but we want them to think about what happens three hours later.”

The training focused on helping bar staff recognize the danger of sexual violence between patrons.

Timko said while most people see drug-facilitated assault as involving substances like so-called “date rape” drugs, 79 percent of such attacks involve only alcohol.

Timko, who specializes in interpersonal violence prevention, said she believes starting a dialogue between bar staff and owners about sexual assault is an important step to making bars in Chapel Hill safer.

Daniel Llamas, the manager of Goodfellows bar on Franklin Street who attended the event, said his staff has always been aware of sexual assault, but heightened attention at UNC has put a spotlight on the issue.

“Sexual assault is more out there and more on your mind, but (the attention) hasn’t changed our actions,” Llamas said. “We have emphasized it more, though.”

Timko said she hopes bars in Chapel Hill will host Raise the Bar training sessions for their entire staffs.

She said the training will bring attention to the issue of sexual assault and help people brainstorm ideas on how to handle such situations.

Timko said Raise the Bar volunteers were met with positive reactions when they reached out to businesses on Franklin Street to introduce the program last month.

But Goodfellows was the only bar to send representatives to the training.

Llamas emphasized that he considers Goodfellows a safe bar, largely because of the staff’s awareness of the sexual assault issue.

He said the bar was small enough to allow staff to keep an eye on the safety of customers.

“Luckily, I feel like we’re not a bar where people go just to pick someone up,” Llamas said.

“It’s a more relaxed feel and we have a good amount of regulars, so it’s usually fairly easy to monitor.”

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