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Den staff trained to identify dangerous bar behaviour

By Chris Adams, October 2 2014 —

Staff at the Den have taken steps to prevent sexual assault with bystander intervention training taught by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre (CSHC).

The Students’ Union and the Consent Awareness and Sexual Education (CASE) club partnered with CSHC to host the training session on Sunday, Sept. 28.

CSHC community resource manager Becky VanTassel said the program, called Creating a Culture of Respect, trains staff to identify and approach people in uncomfortable situations and to help them get out of it safely.

Sunday’s three-hour session included role-playing and discussions about the staff’s experience with sexual harassment.  Around 40 people, including SU vice-president student life Jonah Ardiel, participated in the training.

The program also educated staff on issues like heteronormativity, gender norms and healthy sexual behaviour.

“If you can’t talk about healthy sexuality comfortably or openly, how can you talk about what unhealthy sexuality looks like?” said CASE president Emily Leedham.

Staff were trained not to over-react if someone they approach doesn’t respond to the intervention.

“If a person is not responding to [bystander intervention], it’s about maintaining calmness and repeating the same messaging so it’s not matching intense feelings with intense feelings,” VanTassel said.

CSHC warned staff against becoming vigilantes. Staff learned how to support individuals in uncomfortable situations, not to inadvertently shame them.

“You’re supporting patrons in their right to feel comfortable and enforce their boundaries,” Leedham said.

Ardiel hopes people will be deterred from harassing others if they know Den staff are trained to prevent it. But if that’s not enough, he said Den staff know how to handle dangerous individuals.

“[Den staff] can intervene immediately and mitigate a potentially dangerous situation that could escalate into, god forbid, a full-blown assault,” Ardiel said.

Campus Security sent out six security alerts last year for sexual offences. Two of those alerts reported sexual assaults, one of which took place after Thursden.

According to Statistics Canada, only six per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police.

Leedham said no particular incident inspired her to bring the program to the Den.

“We know that sexual harassment and assault happen more often than we like to think. Just because it’s not on a headline doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Leedham said.

Leedham said CSHC will train more staff in the winter semester if there’s enough turnover at the Den. If there’s not, CASE will work to make bystander intervention part of the training for all future Den staff.

“I think this training will help empower everyone to stand up for each other and create a space where everyone can enjoy themselves,” Leedham said.

While CSHC haven’t trained staff at other bars in Calgary, VanTassel hopes they will in the future

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