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The Over Hang's sign reflected in the bar's window.

Athens businesses receive training for bystander intervention

The People’s Justice League and the Better Bystander program at Ohio University have trained several staffs from local businesses to be better bystanders and intervene during difficult and potentially unsafe situations. 

The trainings are meant to teach people about issues of sexual assault and violence, how to combat against potentially dangerous situations and different bystander intervention strategies.

“We are pleased that so many businesses in Athens have demonstrated their commitment to ending violence in our community,” Mathew Hall, assistant director of health promotion for sexual assault/misconduct prevention, said. “In coordination with campus and community partners, Ohio University had provided trainings to a variety of establishments in the area.”

A People’s Justice League program, the Active Bystander Coalition has trained businesses in Athens since 2013. 

Since then, Donkey Coffee, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, Little Fish Brewing Company, O’Betty’s Red Hot, the Ohio Pawpaw Festival, The C.I., The Crystal, The Union Bar and Grill, and West End Ciderhouse have received training from the Active Bystander Coalition. 

Sarah Fick, director of the People’s Justice League, said the league asks that 80 percent of a business’ staff be trained at all times. So, as staffs at businesses change over the years, employees are retrained. 

Most of the businesses were retrained in late 2016 and early 2017, according to the People’s Justice League website.

The Active Bystander Coalition training includes a two-hour program on bystander intervention and supporting survivors of harassment and assault. Each business takes a pledge that it will take complaints of harassment seriously. 

Fick said the People’s Justice League has an incident report website and app that allows people to anonymously report cases of harassment and give feedback about the businesses trained in bystander intervention. 

OU also offers a Better Bystanders training program. Bystander intervention training is done with students’ safety in mind to create long-term, sustained cultural change and prevent gender-based violence, Hall said.

So far, Casa Nueva and The Over Hang are the two uptown locations that have received the training. Casa Nueva hosted a full-staff training in the spring. Hall said the group plans to talk with Casa Nueva about providing future training this fall. 

The Over Hang is one of the businesses Better Bystanders trained Sept. 9. The bar planned on receiving the training before the recent sexual assaults on campus were reported.

Mary Ryznar, a senior studying communication studies and integrated media, is a bartender at The Over Hang. 

“We had a mandatory staff meeting,” Ryznar said. “(We) went over examples of sexual harassment and how to intervene.”

She said they were given scenarios and taught how to approach ways to intervene, such as if there was a fight. 

Kyle Yake, manager at Cat’s Corner, said its staff wanted a way to help students but took it in a different direction. Cat’s Corner received intervention training through an attorney and plans on doing more training with the Athens Fire Department soon.

“Obviously with everything happening, someone needed to take initiative,” Yake said. 


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