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3 Ways Bars and Restaurants Can Be Partners in Preventing Sexual Violence

Message from the Community:

3 Ways Bars and Restaurants Can Be Partners in Preventing Sexual Violence

By Eric McGriff, OutSmartNYC

[For this month’s newsletter, we hear from one RWCF’s grantees. We aim to amplify the voices of people working to make change in the hospitality industry.  If you have something to say, drop us a line.]

At OutSmartNYC, we want everyone to “Have the BEST possible night out!” We work to achieve that goal by training nightlife industry professionals and help them understand how to prevent and respond to harm that happens in their spaces. We are a collective of nightlife staff, patrons and activists who are organizing to end sexual violence in nightlife and party spaces. We also recognize that nightlife industry professionals are experts in their spaces, and that we need their expertise if we are ever to create safer spaces for patrons and staff.

Half of our OutSmartNYC work is with nightlife professionals. We believe that the nightlife industry is uniquely positioned to be a leader in the movement to end sexual violence because of its ability to bring people together and build relationships. The other half of our strategy is working with three rape Crisis Programs (Crime Victims Treatment Center, Mount Sinai Beth Israel Victims Services, and the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault) to provide free and confidential medical, therapeutic and legal advocacy to those who are impacted by violent crime. We function mainly through the OutSmartNYC Collective, our Training Program and our Community Mobilization Model.

Our Collective is a group of nightlife industry professionals who come together once a month to share their experiences. This is somewhat like a mini, monthly “State of the Industry,” where professionals tell us what is happening in their spaces, share experiences about how they intervened when they saw something troublesome happening, and get support from other industry folx and those who work directly with survivors of violent crime. This is also a space where we plan for the future of OutSmartNYC and raise awareness about all of our efforts to engage the nightlife community.

Our Training Program is grounded in curricula co-created by folx who work directly with survivors of violent crime and those who work in the nightlife industry. We combine our expertise to create interactive trainings that expand nightlife professionals’ understanding of what violence is – beyond the violence we are conditioned to recognize (e.g. more physical forms of violence) – and in doing so, we increase the number of spaces where these folx can intervene in safer ways, where escalation is less likely. We know it is not realistic to think that nightlife professionals will be able to catch every form of harm that happens in their spaces, so we also train nightlife professionals on how to respond to survivors when they disclose, and get them the help they are looking for. One of the great things about OutSmartNYC is that, because it is partly a collective of folx who provide free assistance to survivors of violent crime, a connection to OutSmartNYC is a direct connection to those resources. We offer a 1.5 hour Sexual Harassment Training and a 3 hour Sexual Violence and Bystander Intervention Training. Both of these trainings are in compliance with New York State and New York City Anti-Sexual Harassment Training mandates. These trainings go deeper than a traditional Sexual Harassment training and provide tools that go beyond just explaining problematic behaviors that are not allowed in a space. We unpack the culture of violence, so that folx we work with can immediately begin to work on themselves and reflect on small moments where they can make changes that actually work to reduce the potential for violence. We also create custom training at the request of the industry, such as “Engaging Men,” a four-part training we completed in the fall of 2018 with the NYC Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild. We take deep pride in the partnerships we develop with nightlife professionals, and every training we facilitate is led by one rape crisis program professional and one nightlife professional, side-by-side.

Lastly, we created our Community Mobilization Model to help the nightlife industry engage their communities, and use them as a resource to meet the needs of their communities. The nightlife industry is often seen as just a party industry, but we at OutSmartNYC know that is not true. Through our Community Mobilization Model, we help nightlife professionals connect with their communities, local precincts, and boards to have critical conversations geared toward building relationships that position nightlife to be agents of change and a resource for all.  

OutSmartNYC’s relationships with people in the nightlife industry are built upon the concept of compassionate accountability. We aim to reduce shame that is bolstered by myths, for example, the erroneous belief that alcohol causes violence. But we also help nightlife folx to acknowledge that shame is a weapon used to keep people silent, which interferes with our community’s ability to do culture-shift work. We engage with partners by using a trauma-informed perspective to help nightlife professionals change culture, even while recognizing just how hard that is.

We meet people where they are at. If your bar or restaurant hasn’t yet tapped into the resources of this growing community changing nightlife culture, get in touch with us. We can only do this TOGETHER.   


Eric McGriff is the Prevention Coordinator for OutSmartNYC at Crime Victims Treatment Center. For inquiries about training, you can email outsmartnyc@gmail. If you would like to keep up with OutSmartNYC’s work, you can follow @OutSmartNYC on Facebook or Instagram.

John deBary