Archive for Monday, November 15, 2010

GaDuGi SafeCenter’s bar program creates safer environment for Lawrence patrons

November 15, 2010


The advocates at GaDuGi SafeCenter frequently meet sexual assault survivors in stark hospital rooms after the attack has happened.

But in an effort to reduce sexual violence in Lawrence, the local sexual assault support center is turning its attention to activities that occur earlier in the evening.

The groundwork for sexual assault is often laid in establishments where the victim and perpetrator are surrounded by friends and having a good time.

“There is the consumption of alcohol. (People) unknowingly pass out, are isolated from friends or walk home through a park. That is where we work on solutions,” GaDuGi regional outreach coordinator Chrissy Heikkila said.

Through a $2,500 grant from the United Way, GaDuGi is teaming up with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, Kansas University Office of Student Success and local drinking establishments to brand bars as SafeBars.

“We are hoping that SafeBars are part of the answer, not the problem,” Heikkila said.

Abe & Jake’s is among the nine bars that have signed on so far, partly because its general manager, Ryan Lantz, recognizes the role alcohol plays in sexual assault and domestic battery.

“I think we want to be good stewards of the community and part of that is taking responsibility for our part in all of that,” he said.

Nationwide, 50 to 80 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol. In Lawrence, GaDuGi was fielding questions from local bars about what they should do when they see behavior that was questionable.

“Alcohol isn’t causing the assault, it’s more of a tool used in the assault,” Heikkila said.

One of the key components of being a SafeBar is trained staff that know how to properly respond to situations that could lead to a sexual assault later in the evening. Bar staff might step in to help an intoxicated patron find a way home or to make sure individuals aren’t separated from the friends with whom they arrived. Each training session has a representative from the district attorney’s office to answer legal questions.

The SafeBar brand fits nicely with another concept circulating throughout Lawrence: the buddy system. Part of a KU marketing effort, the Jayhawk Buddy System asks that when students go out, they do so with friends who keep an eye on each other throughout the evening.

“We are trying to encourage and capitalize on the fact that most students do get home safely almost every evening,” said Frank DeSalvo, associate vice provost for student success. “By buddying up, the students’ odds are in their favor that they are going to be connected to someone who is going to employ effective behaviors to get them home safely.”

While the SafeBar Alliance aims to prevent sexual assaults, the buddy system intends to keep students “out of the back of police cars and ambulances,” DeSalvo said. But both efforts are sending messages to empower friends and bystanders to act, he said.

The SafeBar Alliance also includes giving bars coasters with messages about finding a safe ride home, planning ahead and following the buddy system. And bars will receive business cards that list the telephone numbers of taxi cabs and information on bus services. Those cards will be handed out to the patrons that need them.

Any bar can become a SafeBar as long as its staff members undergo the training and attend meetings of the SafeBar Alliance. The bars also must display materials that provide information on safety.

“It’s been really rewarding to see that bars do care and they are not the problem,” Heikkila said. “They are policing their own bars and do care about the outcomes at the end of the evening.”


Soap 7 years, 7 months ago

$2,500 United Way grant vs. $4,000 Halloween Costume Contest

Kyle Reed 7 years, 7 months ago

Wait, the United Way had a $4000 Halloween costume contest?

Tristan Moody 7 years, 7 months ago

This article is very long on why they do this, but it is quite short on what exactly it is. All I was able to get out of it was that nine bars in town do it, and it involves training wrt sexual assaults. What is the nature of the training? What sets these bars apart?

Jacks_Smirking_Revenge 7 years, 7 months ago

I wonder what the bar liability will be when they are tagged as a "SafeBar" and someone still has an incident? With the special training to help reduce the risk of sexual assault, does that shift some of the responsibility to the bar and away from the patron? Will students become more apt to be less cautious because they are drinking in a "SafeBar"? As Chris Rock said, "Don't go to parties with metal detectors. Sure you're safe inside, but what about all those (people) outside with guns? They know you don't have one."

Kris_H 7 years, 7 months ago

What percentage of KU students in Lawrence are age 21 or over?

Sherry Warren 7 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like a legal catastrophe waiting to happen with responsibility again being shifted off of the people who are out partying onto the people who are working in the establishments that serve them. Will they be trained in Mandt Systems so they aren't injured by drunk idiots who don't want their help?

Can they make a SafeHouse brand for frat and sorority parties? And SafeDorm? Where are the problems really happening? In parks when drunk girls stagger home with a new male friend?

In the grand scheme - not a fortune spent on it so if it keeps one more drunk pedestrian from being run over by different drunks in cars or one more drunk girl from waking up being raped then it will be worth it - as long as bartenders and other bar employees are not held responsible for the bad choices other people make. Keeping track of which people came in together sounds nearly impossible on a busy night.

lindsbug 7 years, 7 months ago

I think this is a great idea. I disagree that it's a legal catastrophe; it's just an awareness program so that potential assaults can be deterred. For example, if a bouncer sees an extremely inebriated girl leaving the bar with a guy, he might say, "Hey, are you doing okay? Do you need me to call a taxi?" Maybe the guy is her boyfriend or a guy that she knows and trusts, maybe not. In the case that he's not, the girl may think twice about going home with him, and then the SafeBar has done its job.

Frankly, it doesn't matter what percentage of people are 21 or over in Lawrence. Let's remember that Abe & Jake's, for example, is an 18 and over bar; and many students have fake i.d.s or "know someone at the door." While we may not want to admit that underage drinking is going on in our establishments, it does happen-- very often.

I think that we need to be supportive of this program and view it in a positive light. It may seem ambitious, but if it prevents even one sexual assault, then the UW grant and all the work people put into the Alliance is working.

Sherry Warren 7 years, 7 months ago

Overheard a girl in Wescoe today bragging that she was so wasted she crawled into the back of a car and didn't even know to whom it belonged. Her parents must be so proud.

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