GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bartenders at New Holland Brewing in Grand Rapids will learn how to intervene in cases of sexual assault as part of the YWCA’s newest prevention program.
The YWCA West Central Michigan created the Good Nightlife Project as a way for bars, breweries, clubs and other establishments to create a safe nightlife environment for its patrons and staff.
A recent study found about half of all sexual assault cases involve some form of alcohol. It’s a sobering statistic that has establishments across the country engaging its staff in prevention and bystander training.
When it comes to the link between alcohol and sexual assault, the YWCA of West Central Michigan believes, “alcohol is an easily accessible, socially acceptable tool that rapists frequently exploit or use or disarm the person they’re targeting.”
Jake Carter, a prevention specialist at the YWCA, has spent the last year customizing a prevention program for the nightlife scene in Grand Rapids.
New Holland Brewing was the first to jump on board, eager to empower its staff to be the first line of defense when it comes to stopping sexual violence.
Beginning in January, Carter will begin training sessions with the staff at The Knickerbocker, New Holland Brewing’s Grand Rapids location.
The training will teach the staff how to spot and diffuse potentially dangerous situations.
“The body language, facial expressions, eye contact and how people are orientated and encouraging staff to be more aware and more in tune to those dynamics,” Carter said when describing the training.
After several years of working with sexual offenders through his work as a therapist, YWCA Chief Program Officer Tom Cottrell said by empowering the bar staff to intervene, you take power away from the predator.
“What inhibits a sex offending behavior the most is an environment that doesn’t tolerate the precursors to that offending behavior,” Cottrell said.
It’s a concept that New Holland Brewing is excited to get behind.
“If it can help them identify unsafe situations and then alleviate it — it’s almost a no brainer and we should be doing these things,” New Holland Brewing Assistant General Manager Becky Fuller said.
In addition to staff training, the Good Nightlife Project will also help establishments identify potentially unsafe areas and work to improve safety policies.
To learn more about the Good Nightlife Project, you can visit the YWCA West Central Michigan’s website.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault or become one, there is help. The YWCA’s 24-hour confidential helpline can be reached at 616.454.9922.