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WI: WCASA working to prevent sexual assault in Wisconsin bars

WI: WCASA working to prevent sexual assault in Wisconsin bars

WI Proud
by Leeann Stapleton
December 12, 2021

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – A Wisconsin organization dedicated to fighting sexual assault is taking a different approach to the prevention of sexual violence in situations involving alcohol.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault is taking a boots-on-the-ground approach to curb sexual violence in bars and other establishments where alcohol is served.

“WCASA is a statewide organization that works to create the social change necessary to stop sexual violence,” WCASA Associate Director, Kelly Moe Litke said.

Litke said research shows the correlation between alcohol and sexual assault.

“For instance, alcohol is the most commonly used substance to facilitate sexual assault,” Litke said. “So, with all that we know about sexual assault and alcohol use in our state, that led us to a prevention strategy that addressed both rape culture and alcohol culture.”

That’s where SAFE Bar Network came in. The national organization provides training to bar staff for bystander intervention and in this case, sexual violence prevention.

WCASA enlists sexual assault service providers, like Bolton Refuge House in Eau Claire, to train advocates like Katelyn Wonderlin.

“So, they train us and then we train the bar and it’s all about bystander intervention training that’s designed in a kind of a unique way in that it’s made to rely on the expertise of the bar staff,” Wonderlin said.

Advocates like Wonderlin work with local bars who want their staff to be more alert for signs that something might not be right.

“Then we go in and it’s about bringing up these different tools and different things that we know about how alcohol can be used as a tool especially to perpetrate sexual violence and sexual harassment and then using that information to start the conversation with everyone,” Wonderlin said. “So, we know some people might be using alcohol, how might that look, have you seen anything in the bar that looks like people using alcohol as a tool and how can we prevent that, how can we reroute that.”

Litke says SAFE Bar training gives Wisconsin a chance to start conversations so everyone can have a good night out.

“What we like about SAFE Bar not only trains staff to identify, interrupt and intervene in situations but it also seeks to address drinking and rape culture which is essential to sexual violence prevention,” Litke said.

Including Eau Claire, WCASA has piloted SAFE Bar training in 11 areas around Wisconsin so far.