British Columbia

Sexual violence prevention training offered to Victoria's hospitality industry

After recent reports of sexual violence at restaurants in downtown Victoria, B.C., Good Night Out Vancouver has stepped in with a course on keeping customers and staff safe. 

Training comes in wake of reports of sexual violence in Victoria restaurants

After a year-and-a-half of labor shortage and closures, people working in the hospitality industry hope to remain open even if that means a system of vaccine passports has to be introduced. (Glenn Harper/Creative Commons)

A Vancouver group dedicated to preventing sexual assault, particularly in the hospitality industry, is offering free training to Victoria hospitality workers in the wake of several reports of sexual assault in B.C.'s capital. 

On Jan. 31, the Victoria Police Department was alerted to a series of social media posts describing a sexual assault at a downtown restaurant. The following day, it put out a call to the public asking anyone with information or similar stories to file a report and in a statement Feb. 3, police said "numerous" people had come forward. 

Earlier this month, Victoria city council approved a motion to prevent sexualized violence and to build a culture of consent in the hospitality community.

Now, Good Night Out Vancouver is stepping in with its course on keeping customers and staff safe in that industry. 

The organization has been active for six years and has offered this specific training for two. Education director Stacey Forrester said that through regular check-ins with past participants, they've been able to identify that 100 per cent of the people that have taken their training have felt more confident intervening in possible assault situations. 

The training focuses on both issues within the hospitality industry and the societal component of sexual violence. 

"At the core, sexualized violence is about a power dynamic being exploited," Forrester told All Points West host Kathryn Marlow. 

"Gendered workforces that rely on a tipping economy do make people more susceptible."

"We do know that there is a strong link between people who are consuming alcohol and all forms of aggression, including sexual violence."

The majority of the workshop focuses on "risks for perpetuation" or things that happen in that particular sector that have become normalized and might otherwise go unnoticed, as well as identifying the tools staff can use to mitigate those risks.

She said identifying instances of sexual violence is about body language and communication. Bars and restaurants tend to be dimly lit, busy settings where it may be difficult to keep track of everything going on. 

"Even when you're not really sure if what you're seeing is what you think it is, there is a way to kind of check in without offending anyone or maybe reading it wrong," Forrester said. 

She said the people signing up for the training are often establishments where an incident has happened, but sometimes businesses are looking to get ahead of a possible problem. 

"I would love to see a day where we are 100 per cent prevention focused instead of response focused," Forrester said.

With files from All Points West

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