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Bars work to prevent sexual assault

BY CARLY MATTHEW | MARCH 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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Some Iowa City bar staff are now taking action on sexual-assault prevention through the new Raise the Bar workshops.

Since Raise the Bar started its programming early last semester, employees at five establishments, Bo-James, Brothers, the Summit — Sports Column, and Pints — have received training. This weekend, program members plan to train Deadwood and Dublin Underground workers.

The Summit’s staff trained with Raise the Bar late last summer, and Brad Temple, a managing partner at the Summit, said he was pleased with the results.

“In the last few months, there have been times where I saw things they talked about playing out at Summit,” he said.

Because of the training, the staff knew how to best intervene when they noticed potentially unwanted sexual behavior.

“I think they got their point across,” Temple said. “They opened the door to let everyone know this could happen to them.”

Susan Junis of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, the University of Iowa prevention-education coordinator, and Women’s Resource and Action Center violence-prevention program coordinator Meagan Schorr lead the program.

“We’ve been really encouraged and enthused by the response we’ve had from bar staff,” Junis said.

They said the first hour of the program is dedicated to helping staff understand the dynamics of sexual assault, red flags to watch, and the way perpetrators can use alcohol as a weapon to commit sexual assault.

The second hour includes an interactive bystander-intervention workshop focusing on intervening after identifying these behaviors.

Junis said she first heard about programs’ training bar staffs intervention skills at the National Sexual Assault Conference in 2013.

The Iowa City program borrowed the format from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.

“We found a pretty good formula, and it’s been pretty consistent,” Junis said.

“We focus on the action piece,” Schorr said. “We’re trying to help staff think of how they should respond instead of asking should I or should I not.”

Temple said he sought out a program such as Raise the Bar early last year before it came into existence because of the buzz about sexual assault on campus.

Persuading bars to participate was never an issue. Junis and Schorr said in general, the bars contacted them.

“It was really great to have so many bars proactively reach out and ask for it,” Schorr said.

The programs leaders said they credited an increased awareness of sexual assault on campus, in the community, and across the nation for the high levels of interest in the program.

“The momentum was there, so with the grass-roots work that had already been done, we were able to get a lot of support for the program,” Junis said.


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