Bar managers in Lawrence are required to receive sexual violence prevention training under a new city ordinance. The Lawrence City Commission passed an ordinance requiring training in order to receive a liquor license from the city at its July 16 meeting.
The training is designed to empower bar employees to recognize sexual assault and intervene appropriately.
Education on sexual violence has come a long way in recent decades as our understanding of sexual abuse has grown. Many women recall being told at rape prevention classes the key to stopping rape is being able to physically resist attack with a good grasp of self-defense techniques. Such education is a helpful tool, but it has limitations.
Even if a victim can fight off an attacker, it does little to prevent a rapist from attacking someone else, making it a poor strategy for reducing the staggering number of rapes that occur. It also focuses heavily on sexual violence perpetrated by strangers, when 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Evidence-based sexual violence prevention programs target both men and women with information on sexual consent and healthy sexual relationships. Bystander intervention training has become a particularly popular approach, and is a useful tool to help empower anyone to stop an assault while creating social pressure that can help change perpetrator behavior.
Bars and clubs are not the only locations someone is at risk for sexual violence, but perpetrators' tendency to use alcohol to disarm victims makes bars a smart place to start.
Training for Lawrence bar managers must include “de-escalation techniques and best practices for intervening in cases of suspected sexual violence” from a qualified instructor. The nationally recognized SafeBar sexual violence and bystander intervention training, which many Lawrence bars have already implemented, qualifies under the ordinance.
Many Lawrence residents have already spotted SafeBar posters in restrooms, which inform patrons that staff has received training and informs them of local resources.
Early versions of the ordinance required training for all bar staff. In conversations between advocates and bar owners, the requirement was reduced to training for on-site managers out of concern for staff time and turnover.
The compromise makes sense, but bars with the ability to train all staff should do so. Everyone can benefit from learning how to stop sexual violence.