Last summer Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! worked with materials created by Hollaback Baltimore! to design a program that would certify area bars as Safer Spaces. Baltimore had the idea and designed a poster to be hung in participating establishments. They also created a pledge that business owners would take, publicly announcing their commitment to taking complaints of harassment seriously and removing offending parties as needed. Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! then designed a three hour workshop on sexual violence and alcohol, respectfully responding to survivors, bystander intervention, and self defense. Last summer, they drafted a letter to area bar owners detailing the program and hand delivered it to about 20 Uptown Athens bars. “In most cases, bar owners were hard to track down, with staff saying things like, ‘He might be here from 8-9:00 on Friday night,’ which is not a time we would like to be uptown if we’re not even totally sure we’ll get to see the person we need to talk to,” said Sarah Fick, Site Leader for Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! and Program Coordinator for APJN’s Sexual Assault Prevention Program. In some cases, the group was able to talk directly to the owners, but in the majority of cases, the letters were left with staff who promised to deliver them to the owners. “In a few cases, the people we talked to seemed genuinely interested in the program, but most cases, people seemed disinterested and like they just didn’t want to be bothered. We waited and waited, and didn’t get a single call back,” says Fick.
In the fall, the group began advertising the program through the newspaper an on-line, writing press releases and blog posts, and Donkey Coffee responded. “Donkey Coffee has been a leader in this community in many ways. I actually got involved with Hollaback! after attending a screening of War Zone, a documentary about street harassment, at Donkey over a year ago. It’s really great to have them officially a part of the change we are trying to create,” says Devin Aeh, now Hollaback! Site Leader and Prevention Educator for APJN’s Sexual Assault Prevention Program. Donkey doesn’t serve alcohol, but they are open late nights and their staff does experience problems. They provided the opportunity for the group to pilot their program in a supportive atmosphere.
“Through teaching this first workshop, we ironed out some of the kinks and solidified the program. We learned that we couldn’t cover everything we wanted to cover in three hours, so we cut self defense and made it its own separate workshop,” says Fick. The group feels that self defense is an important follow up to bystander intervention training as fear of escalating to violence is the most cited reason for not intervening. Stan Hahl from Athens Ki-Aikido is volunteering his time for the campaign. He has created a one hour long workshop on physical self defense techniques in the retail setting that he offers at his dojo at ACEnet free of charge for anyone having been through our Safer Spaces training. He attended the pilot workshop at Donkey and has built his workshop up from there.
The response from Donkey staff was positive. “We were impressed with the gentle and professional approach that Hollaback! encourages in the training. We received practical advice and discussed some ideas for handling everything from inconsiderate customers to perpetrators of harassment on the of street. Our employees feel more equipped to handle situations of conflict and harassment, and that makes us feel good as business owners. Donkey is proud to be the first Hollaback! Safer Space,” says Chris Pyle, co-owner of Donkey Coffee.
This past winter, Bill Arnold, Consultant for Ohio University Survivor Advocacy’s Outreach Program for Athens, Meigs, and Perry Counties joined the Sexual Assault Prevention Program’s Advisory Board. During discussion about the Safer Spaces Campaign, he mentioned that a campaign like this has been on the back burner at Survivor Advocacy for a long time and offered his support. Fick and Arnold now co-facilitate the three hour workshop, following best practices by modeling egalitarian dynamics as they teach. “It’s my hope that, through the Safer Spaces Program, we can work together to create a network of spaces in the community where patrons can feel safe and find some peace,” says Arnold. The two have recently trained Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery and are slated to train O’Betty’s Red Hot in May.
The Hollaback! Safer Spaces Campaign has now solidified into four parts. Owners of participating establishments are required to give Fick a 30-60 minute meeting in which she goes over everything that the program entails, delivers an Employer’s Guide created by Hollaback NYC! that discusses the effect of street harassment on businesses as well as reasonable accommodations that could be made for workers experiencing harassment on route to and from work, and gets the okay on the pledge language. Owners are then required to pay at least 65% of their service staff to attend the three hour workshop and to inform the rest of the staff of the program via a staff meeting or memo. Once these conditions are met, the business receives recognition on the Safer Spaces tab of the Hollaback Appalachian Ohio! website and all of the print materials needed to run the program, including posters detailing the program to be placed in bathrooms, a decal for the front door, and red and green cards to be handed to customers as needed. Green cards bearing the numbers for Tri-County’s Crisis Line and OU Survivor Advocacy can be given to folks reporting harassment if needed. These cards also inform folks that they can post their stories on the Hollaback! blog. Red cards ask harassers to leave the premises before staff are forced to call the police. These cards also inform harassers that they may contact Hollaback! if they are having trouble understanding how their actions can be problematic for others. Staff of participating businesses are encouraged to share their stories of bystander intervention via the blog as well.
The last two pieces of the program are optional. These include the self defense training at Athens Ki-Aikido and a community dialogue night where folks from multiple trained businesses can get together to discuss how the program is going, what’s working, what’s not, and what additional supports might be needed. The group plans to hold the first gathering of this type this summer, and Jackie O’s has offered to host it. The group also plans to run newspaper advertisements announcing participating businesses as Designated Safer Spaces. If you have connections at uptown businesses, email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the letter detailing the program. We would love your help with promotion. You have the power to end street harassment!