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Safe Bars training available in Summit County

Free trainings aim to prevent sexual assaults

By Kimberly Nicoletti
How Safe Bars training helps local businesses

Safe Bar-trained businesses see benefits, such as:

  • Promotion on safebars.org website, social media and a window decal that assures patrons that their safety is important to the business, so customers are more likely to return and employees feel more comfortable in a place that prioritizes respect and safety.
  • Staff preparedness: Training gives staff members a range of strategies to address sexual aggression directed at themselves or at patrons, which also means less incident reports.
  • A better bottom line: “Customers who have positive experiences are more likely to return and to tell their friends. On the other hand, even one patron who has a bad experience and leaves with their friends can cost $1,000 in lost tabs over a year. Also, as a Safe Bar, you can prevent the bad PR that comes with an incident, which can be devastating,” according to http://www.safebars.org.
  • To sign up for Safe Bar training locally, call: 970-668-7141. For more information, visit “Summit County Safe Bars” on Facebook.

Free training to prevent sexual assaults in bars, restaurants and any other business, like lodging, is now available in Summit County.

Safe Bars, a national training program, became locally available to businesses last year. The free, two-hour training helps employees understand and recognize harassment and gives them skills to respond safely and appropriately.

Free training to prevent sexual assaults in bars is available here in Summit County.  (Photo courtesy of Summit Medical Center)
Free training to prevent sexual assaults in bars is available here in Summit County. (Photo courtesy of Summit Medical Center)

“We hope to provide education and empower staff because they’re in such a great position to prevent sexual assault,” said Mackenzie Russo, violence prevention project coordinator at St. Anthony Summit Hospital.



Unfortunately, incidents of assault are quite high in Summit County.

“The sexual assault response team is usually pretty busy,” she said. “A big part of it is that Summit County has a party culture.”



While alcohol consumption obviously does not cause sexual assaults, statistics show that alcohol plays a role in half of reported incidents. It is the most commonly used substance to facilitate sexual assault. About 50% of people who commit sexual assault are under the influence of alcohol at the time, and sexual aggressors actively use bars to select, isolate and sometimes incapacitate their targets. This fact alone puts bars and restaurants in a unique position to help prevent victimization — and even save lives.

We want to empower people to get help and stay safe. (Photo courtesy of Summit Medical Center)
We want to empower people to get help and stay safe. (Photo courtesy of Summit Medical Center)

Safe Bars training empowers employees in restaurants, bars, lodging establishments and other places that serve alcohol to intervene, without escalating the situation. They learn to identify warning signs, including nonverbal cues, and to interrupt threatening behaviors through one of the three D’s: direct help, distraction or delegation (usually to managers or bartenders). Training also covers local resources that are available, such as Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault, the Forensic Nurse Examiners at Summit Hospital and the police department.

The training also includes awareness of key phrases, such as “Angela” and “angel shot.” When patrons ask something about Angela (like if she’s working) or order an angel shot, it’s a signal that they need help but can’t directly ask for intervention.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘call the cops,’ but it could be a cue to separate the party or get the person away from the situation,” Russo said.

Nearly one in five women are raped in their lifetimes. Russo, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 14 years, has seen plenty of violations.

“I’ve worked in diners, dive bars and fine dining, and I’ve seen sexual assault happen in every situation. It can be a creepy comment or as severe as touching or stalking. If you downplay it, it keeps happening,” she said, adding that data shows 66% of women and 44% of men have been sexually harassed working in restaurants. “The overall goal of Safe Bars is to reduce sexual assault. Just because Summit has that party culture, it doesn’t have to be unsafe.

Approach any staff member and “ask for Angela” or order an “Angle Shot” for help. (Photo courtesy of Summit Medical Center)
Approach any staff member and “ask for Angela” or order an “Angle Shot” for help. (Photo courtesy of Summit Medical Center)

Safe Bar training is available in Summit County thanks to a grant through St. Anthony Summit Hospital. So far, 21 establishments have been trained, including Outer Range, Silverthorne Pavilion, The Pad and Dos Locos.

According to research, bartenders, staff and patrons are key in preventing sexual violence through proper training and awareness, according to http://www.safebars.org, based in Washington D.C.

“It’s better to understand your community and make it safer across the board, so we’d love to have more restaurants, bars and hospitality locations go through Safe Bars training,” Russo said, “whether it’s through staff asking their managers for the training or owners signing up for it. We want to empower people to know what to look for and how to act to prevent sexual assault.”


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