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U-M's Raise the Bar trains staff at Ann Arbor bars to stop sexual assault before it happens

Staff at Good Time Charley's and Cantina complete Raise the Bar training (Credit: Raise the Bar)

ANN ARBOR – In 2016, University of Michigan's Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center launched Raise the Bar, a bystander intervention program that trains staff at bars students frequent to know the warning signs of sexual assault.

Heather Colohan is the program manager of Community Outreach & Systems Advocacy at SAPAC. She told us about the moment she realized the center's outreach had the potential to expand beyond members of the U-M community.

"When I was thinking about, 'Where are some of the holes in our programming?' it was evident to me that we’re not training the folks in our community that work with our students in the day-to-day," she said. "The students that go to the bars, they're in the public, they're not just on campus. And I think that often times the University of Michigan is seen as this bubble within Ann Arbor and we draw this sort of invisible line across the campus, not recognizing there is no invisible line."

Shout out to HopCat for going the extra mile in making our community safer! #ShoutOutSundays For more information, or to request a workshop, visit raisethebarmichigan.com or email us at raisethebar@umich.edu

Posted by Raise the Bar on Sunday, October 14, 2018

To date, Raise the Bar has completed trainings at 24 Ann Arbor bars, including popular student spots Good Time Charley's, Rick's American Cafe and Cantina.

The program trains the staff in bystander intervention, and recognizing the warning signs that someone could be in danger from a potential attacker.

"The bottom line of Raise the Bar as far as the content is a mixture of basic sexual misconduct skills like consent, respect, we talk about coercion, specifically in the lens of intoxication versus incapacitation. 

"The heart of the training is really talking with the staff about what you can do to recognize when there’s a harmful or problematic situation where you need to intervene."

Popular alternative transit service Boober Tours also completed the training.

HEY WORLD! Boober Tours just completed Raise The Bar. This awesome group is extremely committed to making the community...

Posted by Raise the Bar on Friday, October 6, 2017

Colohan said staff members are trained to use the following skills, depending on each situation: 

  • Direct bystander intervention
  • Delegation
  • Distraction
  • Delay

Raise the Bar has partnered with the Ann Arbor Campus-Community Coalition (A2C3), Wolverine Wellness, Ann Arbor Police Department and University of Michigan Police, which has a six-officer Special Victims Unit dedicated to sexual violence. 

At A2C3's Oct. 4 meeting, members of the AAPD revealed that potential attackers and traffickers have been offering vulnerable students at bars rides home, an issue they are actively addressing in the field.

"The tagline of Raise the Bar is 'to create a safer, inclusive community,'" said Colohan. "That's really what we're trying to do."

To see which bars have completed training, visit www.raisethebarmichigan.com.

To request a workshop, contact raisethebar@umich.edu.

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About the Author:

Meredith Bruckner

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.