Bar staff trained in predator spotting

A man walks into a bar. He orders two tequila shots for the very drunk woman next to him and, once she's out of earshot, two "shots" of water for himself.

What's a bartender to do? Wellington's The Green Man Pub manager Eoghan Kirby asked his customer what he was doing.

The man vanished, the woman was served a glass of water, and she was reunited with her friends.

Maybe it was innocent, maybe it wasn't, but the risk of causing a bit of embarrassment was worth it, Kirby said.

As part of a new initiative, the capital's bouncers and bartenders are being trained on how and when to step in if they spot predatory behaviour.

The Sexual Abuse Prevention Network (SAPN), a collaboration of Rape Crisis, the Sexual Abuse Help Foundation and WellStop, are launching the Wellington Safer Bars Alliance in August, supported by the Wellington City Council and police.

Schools, universities and the Defence Force already participate in SAPN's "bystander intervention" workshops.

Southern Cross and The Green Man were the first Wellington bars to test the concept.

Staff were trained on how to use their judgment and react in situations where they think someone might be at risk of sexual violence.

"When things look a bit off, when it looks like it's gone a step too far, that's when we will have to step in," Kirby said.

The Green Man goes a step further in trying to ensure its patrons get home safely by offering phone chargers behind the bar, and in some cases paying for courtesy cabs.

But the concept of "ethical bystander action" need not be limited to bar staff. The whole community should be encouraged to look out for each other, Wellington SAPN co-ordinator Fiona McNamara said.

A vital step to knowing when to intervene is moving away from blaming victims, she said. A victim should never be seen as "asking for it" just because they might be drunk, flirty or dressed provocatively.

Accepting a drink from a stranger at a bar is not an invitation for sex, McNamara said. "It's not a prelude - it's just a drink."

And she points out that sex with a person who is heavily under the influence of alcohol or drugs amounts to sexual violation.

The Dominion Post