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Bartenders in D.C. are learning how to stop sexual assault, and so far, it's working.

This new bartender program is showing sexual assault the door.

Bartenders in D.C. are learning how to stop sexual assault, and so far, it's working.

A few weeks ago, a woman came into the ChurchKey bar in Washington, D.C., to have a drink alone, but a male patron had a different idea.

He sat next to her and chatted her up. While the conversation seemed innocent enough at first, the bartenders working nearby sensed the woman was growing increasingly uncomfortable. If you're a woman and you've ever been to a bar by yourself, you're probably all too familiar with this scenario.


Photo via iStock.

However, what happened next was altogether different. According to Sam Nellis, the bar's manager, two bartenders on staff intervened three separate times to dissuade the man's advances. Finally, when he went in for an unwanted kiss, one bartender said, "Hey! Don’t you think you’re getting a little aggressive there?"

When the man got up to use the bathroom, they made sure the woman was OK, helped her exit the bar through the back door, and got her into an Uber so she could get home safely.

How did these bartenders know what to do? The answer can be summed up in two words: Safe Bars.

Photo by Safe Bars.

Safe Bars is a training program that teaches bar staff to recognize the subtle signs of an impending sexual assault and stop it before anyone gets hurt.

Why is that so important? Because 1 out of every 4 women will experience some form of sexual assault in their adolescence or early adulthood. And at least half of those crimes occur while the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol.

Considering those statistics, it's not hard to see why a program like this is so important.


Photo by ChurchKey, used with permission.


"The training helps us to recognize the subtle difference between a person okay with physical contact and someone who does not want to be touched," Sam told Upworthy.

"For example, if someone is leaning away from the other person or if they have their arms crossed." But it's also about reading the dynamic of an interaction over a period of time. If a woman suddenly becomes withdrawn in a conversation with man, that should put employees on alert.

When an employee told Sam about the program, which is part of the advocacy group Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) and Defend Yourself, he was immediately on board.

"Frankly, it was one of those moments where you think to yourself, 'How is this not already a thing that everybody does?'"

The program is new and is currently being funded by a $20,000 grant from the NFL, which has recently donated approximately $10 million to initiatives battling sexual violence, including this program, after being criticized over multiple incidents where players have been accused or convicted of assault.

The program is usually taught in two-hour sessions but can be customized to fit your establishment's requirements.

It involves learning how to identify subtle signifiers of sexual aggression and role-playing to practice curtailing it. While the training doesn't guarantee that every sexual assault can be stopped, it can certainly help bar employees be more alert and ready to take action.

While it's relatively early in Safe Bar's launch, the story from ChurchKey is encouraging.

Photo by ChurchKey, used with permission.

Safe Bars is already planning to expand the program to other cities, bringing it to bars that want to put an end to sexual assault in their establishments.

Sam can't wait until the system is a given in his city and hopefully, one day, the world.

"My dream for Safe Bars is that it becomes ubiquitous in D.C. I hope that one day it will be a prerequisite for operating an establishment that serves alcohol."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Anthony Crider / Flickr

Dozens of "White Lives Matter" rallies were scheduled to take place across America on Sunday. The events were scheduled in semi-private, encrypted chats on the Telegram app between Nazis, Proud Boys, and other right-wing extremists.

The organizers said the rallies would make "the whole world tremble."

However, the good news is that hardly any white supremacists showed up. In fact, the vast majority of people who did show up were counter-protesters.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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