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Sunday, June 9,2013

Anti-harassment group wants bartenders on board

After Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! successfully launched its new blog and campaign to end street harassment, the new group got straight to work designing a new educational program to encourage bystander intervention from area bartenders, according to a news release.

They hope to train and certify at least five area bars over the course of the summer. Bar staff will need to attend one three-hour training that discusses rape culture, bystander intervention and self-defense techniques, and uses scenarios and activities to practice newly learned skills, the release said. 

A discussion group comprised of staff from all participating bars will follow two months later in order to discuss changes and progress made as well as how to move forward into the next school year. "Bartenders will then be able to utilize the blog to publicly report their brave and compassionate acts of bystander intervention as they test out their new skills through real-life events," according to the release.

Participating bars will receive a window-sticker bearing the Hollaback! Logo and the words, "This Establishment is I GOT YOUR BACK Certified." This, the release said, will lend a sense of safety to patrons "in that they can expect that someone will have their back should a tricky situation arise whether it be late into a drunken night out or just sipping one drink during happy hour."

Participating establishments will also be listed in Hollaback! ads in local newspapers thanking them for their participation, according to the release.

"We're going to ground zero. Street harassment is a huge problem in Athens, just like it is throughout the world," Sarah Fick, program coordinator for the Sexual Assault Prevention Program and organizer for Hollaback Appalachian Ohio!, said in the release.

She added, "I've been avoiding going uptown during certain hours for years because the amount of harassment I have experienced from drunken college boys is obscene and extremely aggravating. We're doing something positive to change that. Bartenders see it day in and day out, and we'd like to empower them with the knowledge of effective skills with which to safely challenge bad behavior. If bar patrons know that someone has their eyes open and is ready to intervene, they may be less likely to behave in a sexist or threatening manner in the first place."

According to the release, Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! believes that street harassment is part of rape culture – "that living in a culture where inappropriate, intimidating, and disrespectful behaviors that cross personal boundaries are consistently allowed to happen in public spaces facilitates a culture where even worse things happen behind closed doors the release said." 

For more information about the certification program or to find out how you can get involved, email the group at They also have a blog at


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I think that this is only an issue because of how we have forgotten how to treat one another. This is a failed societal inforcing issue and though having bar tenders on board would help, I think we just need more good people who are willing to sacrifice the time to walk a drunk girl home or stand up and safely challenge the jerks who think it's okay to not be respectful.



Your heart is in the right place, Christopher, but, unfortunately, history doesn't agree. Misogyny and rape have been a part of humanity as far back as the historical record stretches, with few shining exceptions. In fact, in taking a long view, it would be more accurate to say that we are better at treating one another than we have ever been -- but we still have a very long way to go. Or, as my friend Howard Rheingold once said, "A hundred years ago, there wasn't even the word 'genocide.'" Before that -- before 1944, to be precise -- it was just a part of war -- like torture and rape.

So, please, do not poo poo the honest and important efforts of those on the front lines. It's easy to say, "we just need more good people," but since most people can't even see the issues clearly, if at all, any constructive step is valuable.



Did you ever stop to think that maybe bars themselves are part of the problem in the first place? Young people with raging hormones get together in a dark and impersonal atmosphere, dressed to attract attention, then take substances that reduce their judgment and inhibitions? I know in our culture it's fashionable to think that one can can choose their behavior and the consequences separately, but reality is not like that. People who do wrong things are still responsible for their rude and even criminal conduct, but making wise choices, such as staying away from places like that, is also one's responsibility, and can keep you safer.

This article reminds me of the push to make school teachers' promotion and pay dependent on student performance. All else being equal, that has some sense to it, but what that strategy ignores is that the school cannot fix the problems that broken homes create. Seeing the issue clearly requires acknowledging that neither a schoolteacher nor a bartender can fix people who are broken by the lack of a solid home environment, and these bartender efforts, however well-intentioned, are just band-aids.

What this country needs most of all is a return to the God of the Bible, and then after that a return to fathers who keep their promises. Helping create the conditions for those two changes are the real front lines. We even have a day to celebrate those who contribute to them--it's called Father's Day, and it's conveniently tomorrow. All day.