Health Promotion and Wellness Services creates new initiative, teaches local restaurant and bar staff bystander intervention techniques

Published: January 18, 2022

Article body

To help decrease harassment, violence and alcohol-related incidents among Auburn University students, Health Promotion and Wellness Services has created a new initiative, Raise the Bar, to teach local restaurant and bar staff bystander intervention techniques.

According to Shelby Flores, coordinator of alcohol and drug prevention for Health Promotion and Wellness Services, the program helps participants learn how to recognize concerning behavior, gain the confidence to intervene and provide support to patrons in potentially unsafe situations.

“We know that mobilizing bystanders can be an important tool in preventing alcohol-related harm and sexual violence,” Flores said. “This is because bystander intervention takes the focus off the individuals who are harmful or are being harmed and places the responsibility on the community at large. On campus, we facilitate these conversations through our Green Dot program. Through Raise the Bar, we are able to facilitate conversations about bystander intervention with a targeted audience—local Auburn businesses.”

Like Raise the Bar, the Green Dot program also focuses on actions of the bystander and equips them to act and intervene in potentially dangerous situations.

According to Flores, the Green Dot program uses “three D’s” to outline different strategies for bystander intervention: direct, delegate and distract.

“With Raise the Bar training, we’ve actually introduced a fourth ‘D’ to represent ‘defend’ and encourage bar staff to step up and support bystanders, who may already be intervening or helping in a particular situation,” Flores said. “We feel as if this addition of a fourth ‘D’ allows us to complement the Green Dot training on Auburn’s campus. We know that students may already be stepping up to help out a friend, and we want to empower bar staff to support those bystanders, in addition to being a bystander and using the other three D’s as needed.”

When introducing and promoting Raise the Bar to local businesses, Flores and Emmie Bruderer, Student Government Association representative, meet with staff members to discuss the goals of the program, statistics, resources, and when and how to intervene.

Additionally, Flores and Bruderer present past intervention examples and walk participants through practice scenarios.

Another concept discussed during Raise the Bar training, angel shots are used at bars and restaurants throughout the country and around the world.

“Angel shots are not an actual drink a person can order,” Flores said. “Rather, it is a code that will discreetly let the bartender know that you need help. Through Raise the Bar, we are trying to standardize the use of angel shots across all participating establishments to ensure students and local establishments are using similar language, per se.”

Based off which angel shot is requested, individuals can signal to waitstaff to call a taxi or rideshare service, help by escorting them to their ride or call the police.

Flores said there have been concerns that if information about angel shots is spread widely, potential perpetrators could become aware of the purpose and meaning.

“While we recognize that this concern is valid, we also know that if individuals are not aware of the purpose of angel shots, then it is not a tool they can utilize if they need assistance,” Flores said. “Angel shots are not the silver bullet to prevent alcohol-related harm and violence in our community, but it is one of many tools that individuals can use if they need help.”

To date, 17-16, Skybar Café and Southeastern have trained staff to participate in Raise the Bar.

Resource sheets are available throughout these establishments for patrons and for staff members to reference at registers and reception areas.

As the program grows, Flores said participating businesses will be provided with signage to display on front windows so community members will know staff have participated in Raise the Bar training.

“Auburn is an incredibly unique place in that our campus and community are very intertwined—our local establishments have strong relationships with our campus units and vice versa,” Flores said. “The Raise the Bar program leverages the strength of these relationships to create a safe campus-community environment for everyone.”

More information on Raise the Bar for both patrons and business owners can be found on the Health Promotion and Wellness Services website.

Submitted by: Payton Beck