KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Local organizations are working to prevent sexual violence and make sure restaurants are safe spaces when it comes to alcohol consumption.
The Safe Bar Tennessee initiative is underway in Knox County as the Knox County Health Department teams up with the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, the Title IX Office at the University of Tennessee and the Family Justice Center.
“I’ve been in this industry for 25 years. I’ve got some stories for sure, and I don’t want to relive those situations here. I want to do as much as we can to prevent those from happening here,” said Charles Ellis, owner of Yee-haw Brewing Company.
Yee-Haw Brewing staff is the latest group taking the Safe Bar training. It’s a network of bars, restaurants and community organizations that are making sure that a date out with friends results in nothing but good times.
“Maybe there’s someone who’s really inebriated and over there and they’re worried about them getting home safely, or they see someone that looks like they’re being aggressive and it’s like how are we going to navigate that? And we talk a lot about bystander intervention and ways to step in that there might be a direct or assertive ways,” said Amy Rowling, the violence prevention health educator with the Knox County Health Department.
The Knox County Health Department said the certification of restaurant workers also gives them access to drug-detecting drink coasters, easing the concern of a roofied drink.
“There is a lot of that going on throughout Knoxville because I’m in the sexual assault center and things like that they have information about how roofing is happening. And so, we bring awareness around it. We help them identify some of that symptoms somebody might have if they have been repeated or been drugged in some way,” Rowling said.
Ellis said his staff is on board with the classes.
“Well, I mean it breaks down to somebody might be taken advantage of by somebody they know, whether it be a relative or their spouse or anything like that, we can be able to spot something like that. Or you know, being able to detect if somebody’s drink has been messed with. We can take that drink from them or protect and drink while they step away from the bar,” he said.
Open just three months in North Knoxville, he said so far, they have not had any close calls and they would like to keep it that way.
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“Yeah, it happens a lot more often than we even know that it happens. So, any chance that we can have to detect those situations more? [We’re] all about that because I want everybody to feel protected and not like they’re going to be vulnerable while they’re here. We’re just naturally open to doing training,” Rowling said.
KCHD said training includes free, in-person education on bystander intervention and raising awareness about alcohol’s role in sexual assault.