Spreading the Word on Our Bystander Intervention Work to Prevent Sexual Assault!

Just two weeks ago, CASS’s Zosia and I teamed up with Lauren Taylor of Defend Yourself and presented CASS/Defend Yourself’s collaborative Safe Bars program to a packed room at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Los Angeles! We co-presented with Carol Hensell of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Myra Ferell-Womochil of Victim Witness Services of Coconino County, who helped bring innovative sexual assault prevention training to alcohol-serving establishments in Arizona through the Arizona Safer Bars Alliance (ASBA). Together, we discussed and compared CASS’s grassroots approach to violence prevention through our Safe Bars program (which was in part inspired by Arizona’s work) and ADHS’s community and state-government led efforts in Arizona.

The packed room while we presented at NSAC!

Both Safe Bars and ASBA are rooted in bystander intervention, which is a key approach to preventing sexual violence. In presenting at NSAC, Zosia explained how bystander intervention trainers should envision themselves as community organizers, particularly ones who are charged with helping build the skills of leaders. Zosia emphasized the importance of tailoring bystander intervention approaches to each specific community. Trainers should also be sure to honor the knowledge that trainees already have on the issue and help build their sense of accountability to others. In regard to preventing sexual harassment and assault in bars, the most crucial aspect of bystander intervention training is often subverting the myths regarding alcohol use and sexual assault.

Julia shared with the NSAC audience the basic elements of bystander intervention. She also discussed CASS’s work with DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), for which we provided testimony on the need for sexual assault prevention training in bars and clubs, developed and delivered by subject matter experts. After the session was over, we were excited to be approached by individuals from across the country who have been working on similar prevention efforts in their states and communities. There was great energy from the group about CASS’s work in DC and helping similar efforts by sharing our successes and challenges.

Collective Action for Safe Spaces at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference
Our NSAC team! Lauren Taylor, Zosia Sztykowski, Julia Strange, Carol Hensell and Myra Ferell-Womochi (l-r)

We learned so much at NSAC! We loved the opportunity to present alongside so many wonderful friends and allies doing critical work in violence prevention, including FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, who shared their amazing “Pink Loves Consent” work; Chai Jindasurat of the Anti-Violence Project, who spoke on violence prevention efforts in LGBTQ communities; Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment, who presented on dismantling rape culture; and Sangeetha Ravichandran of A Long Walk Home, who shared her incredible work using the arts to empower youth to heal from sexual violence.

We hope to see you all next year at the 2014 National Sexual Assault Conference in Pittsburgh!