‘Safe Bar’ training teaching restaurant, bar staff to stop sexual harassment, assault

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) – Free training is being offered to bars and restaurants in the Tri-Cities to teach staff members how to spot the signs of sexual harassment and assault.

The “Safe Bar” training program is meant to create a network of safe spaces locally where employees know how to intervene.

“If you see something, you should say something,” said Brittany Fleenor, community response specialist for the Branch House Family Justice Center. The Branch House is helping spearhead the effort locally.

The goal of the training is to reduce the risk of sexual assault and harassment in local bars and restaurants by teaching staff to be active bystanders and understand the role alcohol plays in sexual assault.

“We know that alcohol is involved in 50% of sexual assaults,” Fleenor. “Our bars and restaurants are places where people meet for the first time after they’ve met someone online, places people go for first dates or even a night out on the town with friends. These are ideal places for sexual aggressors to isolate and incapacitate their victims.”

The bar High Voltage and the King’s Sport Axe House are the first “Safe Bar” certified establishments in the Tri-Cities. The Branch House hopes there will be many more.

“I truly believe if we could get a large percentage of our bars and restaurants in Safe Bar training that it would decrease the number of drug-facilitated and especially alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults that happen in our community,” said Fleenor.

“We have a lot of colleges within our community,’ said Kaylin Render, Assistant District Attorney in Sullivan County. “Bars and colleges go hand-in-hand. We wanna keep our young people safe as well.”

Render is a domestic violence prosecutor and says this training also reduces liability for bar owners if someone were to be hurt there.

“It helps not only the victims and the community but protects the bar owners,” said Render.

The training highlights the importance of watching body language, keeping an eye out for aggression and knowing when to safely step in.

“It’s all about making sure bar staff and restaurant staff are staying alert to those cues and if they feel uncomfortable to follow their gut,” said Fleenor.

The Branch House, along with partners from YW CARES, Johnson City / Washington County Family Justice Center, RISE: Healthy for Life, and Frontier Health-Safe House have partnered for the “Safe Bar” initiative.

Safe Bar is a national, research-based bystander intervention training. Sessions are offered both virtually and in person free of cost.

Interested businesses should contact Branch House at 423-574-7233 or email brittany@branchhousetn.org.

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