Hitting the bars to prevent sexual assault
With college and university students back in town, sexual assault workers with Health Sciences North are hitting the bars this week to raise awareness of preventing sexual assault.
On Sept. 7-8, the sexual assault workers, along with volunteers and nursing students, will be visiting several local nightclubs with the Draw the Line campaign.
They'll be handing out matchbook-sized information packets with information about the hospital's sexual assault programs, the Criminal Code definition of consent and free condoms.
The Draw the Line campaign is a provincewide initiative led by the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres.
The hospital operates sexual abuse and domestic violence treatment programs, as well as the Voices for Women – Sudbury Sexual Assault Centre, a downtown service operated by the hospital, under the umbrella name Violence Intervention and Prevention Program.
“The campaign is all about engaging conversation and asking tough questions around sexual violence,” said Nancy Horan, manager of the Violence Intervention and Prevention Program.
“So what it does is ask questions like 'What would you do if you saw somebody staggering drunk out of somewhere?' We go around and we ask people what they would do in those situations, and then we give them education and options.”
The Draw the Line campaign encourages those who see someone in danger to intervene by telling the bartender or bouncer or making up an excuse to get the person out of the situation.
The team will also be educating bar-goers about the definition of consent.
The campaign is all about engaging conversation and asking tough questions around sexual violence.
manager of Health Sciences North's Violence Intervention and Prevention Program
For example, under the Criminal Code, someone has not given consent to engage in sexual activity if they're unconscious, drunk, stoned or sleeping, or if the person does not say yes, says no or uses other words or behaviours that implies no.
“Certainly alcohol is the number one drug used for sexual assault,” Horan said. “We thought that with the drinking and the frosh week combination, it would be a good opportunity to get that message out.”
The Draw the Line team will be visiting Coyote, the Night Club, Peddler's Pub, SRO and Zigs. They'll also be visiting local post-secondary institutions in the coming weeks to spread the same message.
Brandon Shepitka, a Health Sciences North sexual assault nurse on the Draw the Line team, said he thinks the campaign is a great opportunity to bring sexual assault prevention education to an audience that really needs to hear it.
“Sexual assault and domestic violence are very prevalent within our community,” he said. “It's really great that we're able to get the message out and make a difference in the community.”
September is definitely a busy time for local bars, said Kelsey Cutinello, events and promotions co-ordinator for the Night Club and Coulson Tavern.
“With three post-secondary institutions, there's definitely a huge influx of students in September,” she said.
“Everyone has OSAP, and is looking to make friends and explore their city and the new nightlife in this new city they're in.”
Although students are out to have a good time, problems can crop up, she said.
That's why it's important for the bar to participate in the program.
“I think there is a level of this kind of issue happening in all night clubs, especially with drinking and intoxication,” Cutinello said.
“Our staff does a really great job, night after night, making sure that our place was a safe place. All of our staff are Smart Serve certified, so they know the signs of intoxication. They really try to make sure that if you've had too much to drink, that it's time for you to go.”
Kyle Marcus, general manager at SRO, said he thinks it's important for local businesses to support initiatives such as Draw the Line.
“I think it's important for our industry to come together and show a consolidated front against something like violence,” he said.
“Not that it's a problem or rampant in the industry, but I think it's something that hasn't really been talked about for a long time.”
With roughly 500 people visiting SRO every week, there's a great opportunity to spread the message, Marcus said. “People will start to stir up a hornet's nest and create a buzz, and contemplate these issues.”
For more information about the Draw the Line campaign, visit www.draw-the-line.ca.