UD, YWCA working to make bar experiences safer for students, public

A new local initiative aims to teach strategies to businesses along Brown Street to recognize and stop sexual harassment.

Gem City Safe Bars is a program by YWCA Dayton to educate bar, restaurant and club staff around the city about techniques they can use to intervene when sexual harassment is taking place. The program has teamed with the University of Dayton to reach out to establishments on Brown Street where many students hang out.

“We want to make sure the students feel safe,” said Topher Peck, a sexual violence preventionist at YWCA Dayton.

The program’s 2.5-hour curriculum is designed for hospitality staff to learn the warning signs and patterns of sexual violence. Timothy’s Bar & Grill previously participated in the program and YWCA Dayton is reaching out to more establishments as students are returning to campus.

Along with focusing on campus, Gem City Safe Bars has also trained a number of establishments in the Oregon District. Sexual violence can happen to anyone at any time, Topher said, and programs like Gem City Safe Bars gives people a chance to talk about experiences and be more prepared to step in.

University of Dayton Student Government Association President Sofia Garcia helped bring the initiative to the neighborhood around the university. She said that she hopes people feel safe when they go out and enjoy the nightlife around campus, but it’s important to keep safety in mind.

“I have heard concerns, people do get worried and people do feel scared,” Garcia said. “People have gotten into situations where they wish they would have had more help. And as a student representative, it was my job to listen to those and try to find a way that I can help even if it’s just a little bit.”

Bar staff getting the training is a good step to preventing sexual violence, she said.

“My hope is that this will add another level of safety and comfort for students when they go into these establishments knowing that there are people there who have learned how to care for them if they need that care,” Garcia said.

Student safety is a top priority, UD Chief of Police Savalas Kidd said, and partnering with the community is a good way to keep students safe.

“To see the local bars stepping up and want to be a part, want to be trained, to really focus and enhance the safety of our students and our community, it was just so heartwarming,” he said.

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