Soyer: Raising the bar

BY HANNAH SOYER | MARCH 12, 2015 5:00 AM

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A new program called Raise the Bar has been introduced by the Rape Victims Advocacy Program and Women’s Resource and Action Center in which bar staff at different bars in downtown Iowa City are being trained on ways to combat sexual assault. As most sexual assaults involve alcohol, this is an absolutely crucial step for bars to take.

According to Susan Junis, the prevention-education provider at the RVAP, Raise the Bar training is now voluntary for bar staff. However, it has without a doubt proven successful. “We’ve heard stories from both bar staff and patrons after a training about stopping harassing, assaultive, or potentially violent situation, which is really encouraging,” Junis said. With this in mind, it only makes sense that all bars should be required to participate.

Junis said that currently, RVAP and WRAC are not at a place in which they have the capacity to make Raise the Bar mandatory. The simple solution to this then is to encourage all bars to participate. Simply not doing something because it is not required is irresponsible. Sexual assault is never something to be taken lightly, and being trained on what to look for and how to intercede is beneficial in combating it. As the old saying goes, if you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re a part of the problem.

It is also important to recognize that the Raise the Bar program is only one piece of the puzzle toward stopping sexual assault. It should also be clear that just because this program is being initiated doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to be done in stopping sexual assault.

On top of going through the training, bar staff should also realize that there are many other ways to prevent sexual assault from happening. Junis said that this can include having “designated staff to scan the environment for potentially dangerous or violent situations,” because servers and bartenders are often occupied with serving or bartending.

Security personnel are also good to have, because they can also be on the lookout for potential predators. Also key is making sure the bar communicates that nonconsensual or harassing behavior is unacceptable, which can be in the form of having staff intervene in these situations or even in posters and signs. This gives patrons a clear idea that any sort of “creepy” activity will not be tolerated. Last, bars need to communicate with each other. “Having bars talk to each other is key so that a perpetrator isn’t just kicked out of one place, then moves to another,” Junis said.

Combating sexual assault is not a difficult thing to do if people take initiative to do so. Bars can take a first step in doing this by reaching out and asking to participate in the Raise the Bar program.

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