A pilot programme which trained hospitality workers to be ‘on the look out’ for sexual offenders, could help make New Zealand bars safer in the future, the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) Conference heard yesterday.
The theme of the conference is ‘Time for Action’, with a focus on working together to create sustainable changes in the way New Zealanders think about and use alcohol.
Delegates heard about the success of the Host Responsibility and preventing sexual violence workshops, a pilot programme which trained almost 100 bar staff, security staff and bar managers on how to help prevent sexual violence from being committed.
Kylie Tippett of Rape Prevention Education says research has shown a strong association between alcohol and sexual violence.
“International evidence shows that an estimated three-quarters of offenders and just over half of date-rape victims had been taking drugs or drinking before sexual violence took place. This means employees working in bars and clubs are in a unique position to intervene.”
Kylie says one of the first challenges was to dispel participants’ ‘victim blaming myths’.
“There are common misconceptions about victims of sexual violence being to blame for the crime if, for example, they flirt, wear revealing clothes or walk home alone. This was one of the first issues to be addressed.
“Participants were then trained to identify ‘red flag’ situations and how to intervene. Situations to look out for included inappropriate sexual behaviour and people ordering high volumes of alcohol for another person.”
Kylie says initial intervention from hospitality workers might prevent sexual offenders from committing a crime.
“Offenders don’t want to be noticed, so simply telling a patron their behaviour is inappropriate for the premises, or questioning their reasons for buying lots of alcohol for another person can be very effective.”
In a post-workshop evaluation, more than 95 percent of participants said that both their understanding of sexual violence and their ability to intervene in a potentially high-risk situation had hugely increased.
“They also had a much clearer understanding of why the hospitality industry needs to respond to the problem of sexual violence.”
Rape Prevention Education, in consultation with the Hospitality Association NZ, ALAC, New Zealand Police and ACC, is now developing a follow-up project to help develop sexual violence prevention training in relevant hospitality industry training programmes.
“We hope that this type of training will become standard practice for the hospitality industry in the future. This could be a big step towards making New Zealand’s bars and clubs safer places to party in.”