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MSU pilots new sexual assault prevention training for local bars

More than 80 bar staff in the East Lansing area were introduced to a portion of “Active Barstander,” a new training pilot to teach sexual assault and sexual harassment prevention methods to those who work in the service industry.

The program is facilitated by Michigan State University’s Prevention, Outreach and Education Department, or POE, and is in support of an ongoing campus initiative to decrease these types of incidences from happening at MSU and in the greater East Lansing community.

Through a two-hour, interactive program, bar staff will be educated on sexual violence and harassment prevention, how to identify consensual versus abusive behaviors and how to safely intervene to prevent situations that can potentially lead to sexual violence or harassment.

“We hope to see bar staff feel comfortable and empowered to intervene if they see something happening in their work environment,” said Mariah Sloat, prevention specialist with POE. “They have a lot of power and influence to stop sexual violence.”

Sloat, who designed this program, modeled it after the University of Iowa and University of Michigan’s “Raise the Bar” initiative which has expanded to include local Lyft drivers, a goal she aspires to for “Active Barstander.”

“This is truly primary prevention,” said Sloat. “People should be able to go to bars and have a good time without feeling unsafe or being harassed.”

Research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showed that alcohol contributes to sexual assault in many different ways, often increasing the risk factors.

“Alcohol does not cause sexual assault, but the two can frequently co-occur.” said Sloat. “Perpetrators will often use alcohol as a tactic to facilitate a sexual assault. This can often begin to play out in bars with sexually aggressive behaviors.”

Establishments that complete this new training will receive an “Active Barstander” decal to display in their window as a symbol of their commitment. Bar staff who have attended the training will also receive a certificate of completion.

The invite-only full pilot program will begin this coming December with a small number of East Lansing bars. With the data gathered from the pilot, a full program is expected to launch in 2020.

POE is a part of MSU’s Office for Civil Rights and improves quality of life by educating members of the MSU campus community on sexual assault and relationship violence, eliminating violence on campus, empowering staff, faculty and students to become advocates for a non-violent community and positively effecting social change.

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