Vera House unveiled a new initiative today designed to make Syracuse’s nightlife scene safer. The program entitled “Raise The Bar” works with establishments where alcohol is served to train staff on how to prevent sexual aggression and violence.
Raise The Bar project coordinator Brittany Pryor says the initiative aims to target a common theme in sexual and relationship violence.
"One of the key factors between either the perpatrator and the victim is alcohol," said Pryor. "Alcohol is involved in sexual aggression, sexual violence, rapes--things like that. So when we think about how high that is, that that could be a factor, why not start with that factor?"
Pryor says the program includes two days of training on how to recognize problematic situations and intervene. The training is already paying dividends according to Pastabilities restaurant manager Ryland Heagerty.
"There's a young woman at the bar. She's eating alone. She's just trying to mind her own business," said Heagerty. "This man continues to try and get in her space, try and buy her a drink. She keeps denying. Body language is just a dead giveaway. And we just ask the man to take a different seat or leave the restaurant."
Heagerty continued, "At which point he decides to leave the restaurant. The young woman looks at us and she is just like 'I've never had somebody at an establishment recognize that, and ask for this situation to stop happening.' She was deeply greatful."
Pastabilites is one of many establishments in Armory Square that have participated in Raise the Bar training. Pryor says Vera House has been lucky to have found such receptive partners. She says the initiative will help the community feel safer and more whole.
"We want our community to feel safe," said Pryor. "So to know that no matter where I go in my community, I can go and I can be my authentic self, and know there will be resources if I need help. That's a piece of comfort we can be offering our community."
The Blue Tusk, Kitty Hoynes, Funk N’ Waffles, and The Stoop Kitchen are also participating in Raise the Bar. Pryor says Vera House is focused on the Armory Square area now, but hopes to expand on all over Syracuse within the next two years.