Intervention training begins for bars


The dim lighting of Bo-James was a staple Wednesday morning as a group of 12 wait staff and bartenders underwent a training not usually meant for bars.

Raise the Bar, a new free initiative that offers bystander intervention training for bars and restaurants, kicked off its program this week, and it will continue in the coming months.

Bo-James is the first bar that agreed to the training, said Susan Junis, an education coordinator at Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

Bo-James owner Leah Cohen said she participated in the program because it’s crucial to do what is responsible for the  staff and patrons and to come up with solutions to situations that could arise when people are drinking.

“We have sexual assaults in Iowa City, and I think we have a lot more awareness now,” Cohen said. “And to me, the more aware and more education you have in that particle issue the better.”

Junis said Raise the Bar was started after she attended a conference last year, and that other cities, such as Washington, D.C., Boston, and the entire state of Arizona had a bystander-intervention training.

“We had this idea, and with all the attention on sexual assault in the past six months or so here, we decided to partner with WRAC and decided that this would be a really great time to do this training out,” Junis said. “We had community support. We had bars that were interested so we decided to roll it out this summer.”

Brother’s Bar is scheduled to undergo the training on Aug. 11. The Summit is scheduled for September, Junis said.

“I think it’s an important part of being a business and community member of Iowa City,” said Brad Temple, a managing partner at the Summit. “We can all take steps to curb sexual assault, and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Temple said he chose to do the training closer to the start of school because his employees who are away for summer will be back by then and can participate in the training.

The staff went through an hour of learning how to identify situations that could lead to sexual assaults. Another hour was spent on how to come up with solutions to intervene.

Morgan Cohen, who has worked at Bo-James for 10 years, said he thinks the training has helped him think about real-life examples and come up with solutions to react to them.

“Every once in a while you see something and you want to intervene and act, but it’s good to be reminded how to do that appropriately,” he said.

The training especially sparked an interest for newer staff, who may not be as comfortable asserting their authority.

Allison Tucker-Gorgon, who has worked Bo-James for about a month, said now feels more comfortable trying to stop unwanted situations that could arise in a bar setting.

“I’ve been working a lot at restaurants and bars, and there are always things going on, and there is always that one guy that is making a scene, and now I feel I have more options in what I can say to them or say to people around them,” she said.

Meagan Schorr, a violence-prevention program coordinator with the UI Women’s Resource and Action Center, said RVAP and WRAC worked with the Downtown District, as well as with the Partnership for Alcohol Safety, to get bars to sign up for the program.

“I think it’s really important for the bars to go through the training because a lot of students frequent the downtown area and come to the bars and the restaurants that are down here,” Schorr said. “So the more education awareness we can put out there for the staff, then the increase of opportunities to intervene and interrupt situations that lead to a sexual assault or sexual violence.”

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