Bartenders may help prevent sexual assaults

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) – Virginia bars might be stepping up their game in combating sexual assault under legislation making its way through the General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1150, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, would encourage bartenders and other employees who “otherwise sell, serve, or dispense alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption” to undergo “bar bystander training.”

On Friday, the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services unanimously approved the bill. It now goes to the full Senate.

Bar bystander training would inform employees how to recognize and intervene in situations that might lead to sexual assault. The bill says bar employees should be taught “intervention strategies to prevent such situations from culminating in sexual assault.”

“Studies have been done that actually show that in areas where they have this bar bystander training, they have had an 11 percent lower rate of sexual assault and victimization,” Favola said.

The training would be optional.

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control already offers online training such as Responsible Sellers & Servers (RSVP), which advises employees to follow state laws and how to deal with intoxicated customers.

Favola also suggested signs be posted to let customers know which bars have trained employees.

According to a report on alcohol and sexual assault by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately one-half of all sexual assaults are committed by men who have been drinking alcohol. And more than one-half of sexual assault victims reported that they were drinking alcohol at the time of the assault.

Many bars have created their own policies to combat sexual assault. Most notably, the Iberian Rooster in St. Petersburg, Florida, posted signs in the women’s restroom that instructed women to order an “angel shot” if they needed to discreetly notify the staff about an uncomfortable date.

Other bars have followed that lead and posted similar signs.