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Program aims to make bars safer near UD, help staff stand up to sexual violence

DAYTON — Students at the University of Dayton have partnered with the YWCA to protect students and bar patrons from sexual abuse and harassments.

The “Gem City Safe Bar Program” empowers bar and restaurant staff to spot the warming signs of sexual violence.

“Our program teaches people how to read the moment and decide, ‘is this a moment for direct interventions, for distraction or for delegation?” Kaitlin Schroder, market and communications director at YWCA said.

So far 10 bars and restaurants have taken the program’s prevention education, including Wheat Penny Oven and Bar.

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“We did some role playing activities where one person had to be the server and the other had to be the guest and we just walked through some scenarios,” Briana Anello, general manger of Wheat Penny bar and Oven said.

YWCA staff was there to help in the training.

“We help bars and restaurant staff learn prevention techniques to help prevent sexual assault and sexual harassments, and to understand as a bystander how they can intervene,” Schroder said.

Which Anello found to be invaluable for her staff.

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“Having a lot of new staff, younger staff, I wasn’t sure how much they learned so far about how to handle difficult situations, and I thought the program could really help us,” she said

Now her staff knows ways to spot if a guest looks uncomfortable or is in an unsafe situation, as well as how they can intervene.

“Sometimes just a purposeful glance can bring the right person over. Talking to the host is always a great way to do that because they can delegate who’s best to help handle the situation or the bartender,” Anello said.

The University of Dayton Student Government Association heard about the program and wanted to help it grow, by covering the cost for bars and restaurants to take the training session — $365.

The overall goal is to send the message that sexual violence will not be tolerated at these establishments and they are a safe space.