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Program Highlight: Barstander

Program Highlight: Barstander, a bystander program for alcohol-serving spaces

Barstander is a three-hour training for staff who work in alcohol-serving spaces who are committed to increasing patron safety. Developed by our very own Adult Community Educator, Naomi Barry, the program focuses on sexual assault prevention through bystander intervention. Though most sexual assaults do not take place in public spaces— like bars, restaurants, and music venues— a staggering 83% of sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol. Naomi offers trainings to educate about the scope of sexual violence, consent, and bystander intervention.

By participating in Barstander training, local establishments demonstrate to their patrons and staff a commitment to providing a safer and more welcoming environment. Barstander trainings equip participants with a wide range of tools to use when faced with risky situations. Staff have an increased ability to recognize and intervene early on in problematic situations, where sexual aggression can be stopped before getting to the point where staff need to file incident reports or involve law enforcement.

Photo by Allison Usavage

“The program developed from both my work at the Advocacy Center and from my experience as a bartender. I remember working behind the bar and seeing patterned behavior that was problematic, but not knowing if I could or had the skills to do anything about it,” Naomi recounted. “When I started my work at the Advocacy Center listening to survivors and learning about bystander intervention programs, it became clear that bar-staff possess the skills and authority to effectively intervene in problematic behaviors that could lead to sexual assault. Barstander was officially developed in the Fall of 2016 and it was kismet because it was the same time that Ashley Cake from The Watershed called the Advocacy Center to request a training of this nature.”

The Watershed did indeed become the first establishment to participate in the Barstander program and, from there, it has snowballed as more and more establishments and communities began requesting the program. Naomi has also facilitated programs at Lot10, Kilpatrick’s, and Ithaca Underground, with programs at The Rhinehouse and Argos Bar and Warehouse in the works. Some communities have participated in multiple trainings, including the staff, volunteers, and security at GrassRoots Music and Dance Festival and the local Ithaca DJ community.

#MeToo Community Conversation, Nov. 2017 Photo by DJ Ben Ortiz

The DJ community in Ithaca has been particularly involved with the Barstander trainings. In November 2017, local DJ Ben Ortiz (DJ ha-MEEN) and other community members held  a community conversation at Toko Imports to discuss the #MeToo movement and the impacts of sexual assault, and to brainstorm ideas for how to keep our local nightlife scene safer. Half of the people who participated in that conversation were Ithaca DJs. The local DJ community has actively continued the conversations, holding three Barstander trainings since November 2017 (with more trainings to come!), promoting Barstander at the Ithaca DJ Fest, and holding a dance party (hosted by local DJ Jonny Tunnell of the Spirit Posse DJ Crew, producer/MC Mighty Mickie Quinn, and Cherry Arts Artistic Director Samuel Buggeln) at the Cherry Artspace, which not only raised funds for the Barstander program, but also showcased DJs, bartenders, and security who have participated in the Barstander program.

WRFI Interview Photo by Ben Ortiz

Many local DJs have been outspoken about the importance of engaging in conversation about sexual assault in our local nightlife scene, and because of the continued support and engagement from DJs such as Ben Ortiz (DJ ha-MEEN), Aleshia Akers (The Dutchess), Jonny Tunnel (of Spirit Posse), and Rachel Gunderson (DJ Gundz), more and more people in Ithaca have been interested in and have participated in the Barstander program. Most recently, Naomi and Ben Ortiz worked together to offer a program for local community bar patrons (more trainings to come!).

Participants give Barstander glowing reviews. Rachel Gunderson, professionally known as DJ Gundz, found it “extremely helpful for DJs in the area to explore different ways that we can be more aware of patrons’ actions and be on top of what to do in questionable situations that may occur in the nightlife scene.” She hopes that, through education, “we can create a community where more of us are able to play a role in preventing sexual violence and set a tone and standard for patrons.”

Aleshia Akers, The Dutchess of Spirit Posse, described Barstander as a “captivating gem” that taught her something new and valuable. This training broadened her understanding of “when and how to intervene when it comes to problems related to over-intoxication, sexual assault, and/or violence.” She particularly appreciated that this training looked at these issues from multiple perspectives, including bar owners, bartenders, bar-backs, bouncers, DJs/Entertainers, and patrons.

To learn more about Barstander or schedule a program, contact Naomi Barry.

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