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Bar Training for Active Bystanders


Statistics indicate that nearly 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives and the majority of victims know the offender. In response to high profile incidents of alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults on college campuses, President Obama recently created a White House Task Force whose report concluded that, "victims are often abused while they're drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out or otherwise incapacitated. "The overlap between alcohol consumption and sexual violence has led colleges and community organizations to develop primary prevention programs to combat the problem. Funded by the Florida Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Ráchael Powers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminology at USF is developing, implementing, and evaluating a bystander program for Florida bartenders - BarTAB: Bar Training for Active Bystanders.

BarTAB aims to increase awareness of alcohol-facilitated sexual assault, help bar staff recognize situations or behaviors that constitute or may culminate in sexual harassment or assault, and train bar staff to use discrete intervention techniques to ensure patron safety. BarTAB also aims to build community awareness through social media (www.facebook.com/ShowMeYourBarTAB).

Whereas traditional sexual violence prevention focuses on what women can do to avoid being potential victims (e.g., by avoiding drinking alcohol), bystander programs engage the community in prevention. Bystander programs not only address emergency situations, but also behaviors on the continuum of violence (e.g, sexist remarks) that perpetuate societal acceptance of violence against women. In this way, these programs not only address individual behavior, but also the environmental context in which violence occurs.

"Changing social norms is an important aspect of these programs, as perceptions of others' beliefs impact individual behavior," said Dr. Powers. "If people perceive others as being supportive of a situation, they are less likely to intervene. Programs like BarTAB are effective because they also focus on people's positive self-conceptions."

Bystander programs approach participants as allies rather than potential rapists or victims. As such, it avoids any backlash effect (i.e., increase in anti-social beliefs or behaviors) because the participants do not feel that they are being negatively labeled.

Bystander intervention programs are not a new concept, but they have typically been implemented on college campuses. Recently, they have begun to be adopted in cities that have taken a pro-active approach to keep bar patrons safe. Dr. Powers has partnered with local agencies such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Hillsborough County Public Defender's Office and the Tampa Alcohol Coalition among others to add Tampa to that list of cities.



For more information contact:
Dr. Ráchael Powers
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