The SGA met with Two Docs Brewing Co. to discuss future training to staff on how to identify and stop instances of sexual assault.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Texas Tech University's Student Government Association (SGA) wants students to enjoy a responsible night out knowing the bars they choose to patronize are trained on recognizing instances of sexual assault.
That's why the SGA, in partnership with Texas Tech's Risk Intervention & Safety Education (RISE) office, has launched its Safe Night Out initiative, a program where students trained by RISE will go into local bars and train staff on how to recognize and properly intervene in instances, or potential instances, of sexual assault.
“Sexual assault is an issue that is prevalent all across the U.S.,” said Hunter Heck, SGA president. “This is not a crisis concentrated only at Texas Tech. The rates among college students are very high, including the frequency of underreporting. Texas Tech students receive bystander intervention training when they first come to the university. However, this alone is not sufficient. There are several points of contact within bars representing people who can intervene in the cases of sexual assault, or potential cases of sexual assault. We cannot be merely reactive in addressing sexual assault. We must be proactive in the way we're thinking about innovating the structure and environment of our bars and similar settings.
“I believe this initiative is vital because of how closely tied alcohol use is to instances of sexual assault, and if we can create safe spaces for students to enjoy a safe night out, the result will be an enhanced and safer college experience.”
Both sides benefit
Faisal Al-Hmoud, external vice president of the SGA, said the Safe Night Out initiative benefits not only Texas Tech students but also local bars.
“I think there are two sides of a culture,” he said. “When you're looking at a bar, people are interacting culturally as clients, but also as staff, bouncers and owners of bars. I'm confident in the fact that, if people who are partaking in the culture feel more comfortable to do so, it would be much better for the businesses involved as well. I think it's a mutually beneficial initiative in terms of having this healthy conversation surrounding things pertaining to sexual assault and bystander intervention that may not occur without an initiative like this. So, this is something that would definitely benefit both sides in a culture like this.”
Instances of sexual assault aren't always obvious, like unwanted touching or someone forcing themselves on someone else. It also can be someone trying to coerce another person into doing something they don't want to or drugging an individual. The SGA wants to equip bar staff with the tools they need to identify all facets of sexual assault.
“Sometimes, instances aren't so blatant that everyone in the room recognizes what just occurred,” Heck said. “It can appear as a gray area and, sometimes, it requires specialized training to recognize, ‘Oh, hey, this is leading in a direction that could result in an incident.' So, I think equipping our bar staff with the eyes to recognize signs and the appropriate tools to intervene beforehand is important because it helps mitigate those instances. Also, in the cases that our bar staff intervene, this communicates to those who attempt to perpetuate this violence that this is not tolerated at Texas Tech or in the Lubbock community. It states that we are changing the culture around sexual assault.”
Al-Hmoud said he hopes the training shifts the focus of sexual assault from the victim to the perpetrator.
“As someone who identifies as a male, it's time for us to start to be more aware and to acknowledge the idea that more than 97% of cases that involve sexual assault pertain to people who identify as female or non-binary,” he said. “It's time to realize that maybe there's a problem in the way we look at these cases and that we're focusing too much on what the victim does as opposed to what the perpetrator does. And, as a result, my hope also is an intangible cultural change in the way we perceive these cases: take away attention and blame from people who are victimized and rather pay attention to people who are, or are part of, the problem.”
Earlier this week, the SGA and RISE met with the owners and managers of Two Docs Brewing Co. – the first bar in the Lubbock community to get on board with the SGA's new program – to discuss Safe Night Out at length.
“The SGA reached out to us a couple weeks ago mentioning the initiative, and it sounds like a great initiative to be a part of,” said JC Lopez, event manager at Two Docs. “We're always looking for multiple ways to continue to promote the safety and well-being of all the people who interact with our industry, our business and within the community.
“The meeting was pretty informative as far as the statistics they brought up. One-in-three women and 1-in-16 men are sexually abused or sexually assaulted. As Hunter mentioned, it's not about a woman and what she was wearing, it's about fully trusting her. The statistics were eye-opening as far as how much it actually is involved in our community as well. With us being less than a mile away from Texas Tech, there are a lot of students who come out here. We just want to have a safe environment for them overall.”
Heck said the training local bars will receive will be done by students who are first trained through RISE. Bars that go through the Safe Night Out training also will receive a certificate and Texas Tech SGA-branded items, free of charge, to use in the establishment.
“It will involve students stepping into these places and providing the training,” Heck said. “Other considerations are, obviously, how quickly the turnover rate is with bar staff because a lot of bar staff consists of college students. Considering that, we may have to retrain staff every two years at these institutions so they can maintain this endorsement from Texas Tech SGA as a Safe Night Out bar. At the bars that receive the training, the students will identify places where they can hang posters that list Texas Tech resources.
“We're also hoping to provide wristbands at bars that are 21 and up, where there will be a QR code on the wristband that students can scan to locate Texas Tech resources. Additionally, we want to provide charging stations in these bars with the SGA branding and logo on them. Hopefully, this branding at the bars will communicate, ‘OK, the SGA has stepped into this space and worked alongside this bar to restructure this environment.' Additionally, SGA's website is going to be updated with which bars received training and when its staff was trained. The hope is to get as long of a list as we possibly can.”
Getting more bars on board
The SGA is grateful to have Two Docs leading the way in the Lubbock community and in the Texas Tech bar scene. However, the ultimate goal is to expand and reach every bar Texas Tech students tend to frequent.
“I just want to emphasize to local bar owners who come across this initiative that this is something that will be low cost, but extremely beneficial,” Al-Hmoud said. “In my opinion, there's no reason to not collaborate when you operate in an environment that can be fun for people but also potentially traumatizing.”
Lopez echoes Al-Hmoud's sentiments.
“I think it's important that all these other bars, our comrades, our partners, whoever they are in the industry, they should push to be part of this because they are in business because of Texas Tech students, especially the bars on Broadway, within the area of Texas Tech,” Lopez said. “We're trying to partner with Texas Tech students in more ways than just trying to make money. We want to give them a good space to really feel safe and create awareness on this issue because it matters. It takes a village to really raise awareness and safety for everyone, and we'd love to be the first ones to do this. We really encourage all bars to follow suit and lead their own procedures and practices toward a safer environment.”
Bars interested in becoming involved in the SGA's Safe Night Out initiative can reach out directly to Al-Hmoud via email or contact the SGA through its social media channels, @TTU_SGA.