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Safe Bars, a project of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) and Defend Yourself, trains and empowers staff at alcohol-serving establishments to recognize and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and assault among staff and patrons.

Safe Bars Works To:

  • Increase bar staff understanding of the scope and causes of unwanted sexual aggression;
  • Increase bar staff recognition of inappropriate behavior along the continuum of sexual and relationship violence;
  • Provide bar staff with the skills needed to respond to such behavior safely and appropriately, whether by stepping in as a bystander or when asked for help;
  • Share with bar patrons safety messages that encourage respect and lets customers know that bar staff are available for help;
  • Actively promote bars that adopt safety standards;
  • Award “Safe Bar” certification to bars that complete the training.

Why Bars?

Bars are a great place to address sexual assault prevention for a variety of reasons. They are social gathering places where alcohol is readily available, and though many people are able to safely enjoy themselves, sexual aggressors may use these types of environments as a “staging ground” for selecting, isolating, and even incapacitating their target. Nearly 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime. Approximately half of all sexual assault perpetrators are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault. CASS regularly receives submissions from the DC community on unwanted sexual attention, including harassment and groping, that takes place in local bars and clubs. 

Why Bystanders?

Bystander intervention is a key approach to preventing sexual violence. Bar owners, managers, security personnel, and other staff are in a unique position to observe and intervene to prevent sexual assault by creating a safe space for patrons. Evaluations of bystander intervention programs such as Green Dot have shown significant decreases in participants’ acceptance of rape myths and increases in both reactive and proactive bystander behaviors.

Safe Bars empowers bystanders with skills to:

    1. Identify high-risk behaviors of potential perpetrators;
    2. Intervene either proactively or reactively;
    3. Overcome barriers to taking action.

Does It Work?

Safe Bars builds on the success of similar programs in Arizona and Boston. Research has shown that bartenders, bar staff and young adults who patronize bars are key populations to address in preventing sexual violence.

Current Safe Bars

Recent News Coverage

Safe Bars
Upworthy, 9/17/16

Behind The Bar, In Front Of The Curve: Safe Bars Trains To Stop Sexual Harassment
DCist, 8/16/16

Training Bar Staff And Bystanders To Prevent Sexual Assault
WAMU, “The Kojo Nnamdi Show,” 7/27/16

Bartenders in DC are learning how to stop sexual assault, and so far it’s working.
UpWorthy, 7/18/16

Bars Are Learning How To Stop Sexual Assault, And The NFL Is Helping
Huffington Post, 7/13/16

You Want In?

If you work at a bar, club, restaurant, or other alcohol-serving establishment and you’d like to become a safer bar, we’d be happy to come and work with your staff. If you’re a member of the community and want to help us spread the word about Safe Bars, tell us of a bar you think needs this training, or support Safe Bars in any other way, contact us at