SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A Sioux Falls organization that provides support to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence is hoping everyone in the community starts taking responsibility for the safety of others.
The Compass Center is starting that conversation through a program called “Safe Bars.” According to the Compass Center, South Dakota’s per capita rate of forcible rape is more than 60-percent higher than the nation’s, and half of those assaults include the presence of alcohol.
A community-first company, Remedy Brewing, is always looking for opportunities to better serve and protect its customers. That’s why they signed up to be the first group in town to go through The Compass Center’s “Safe Bars” training on how to identify and prevent sexual harassment and assault.
“It’s a difficult subject for us to talk about, and it’s a difficult subject for people to approach. This is a great way for us to see that and kind of take action. It’s very empowering. Sometimes it can be difficult, to say it’s not my responsibility. It’s not my choice. I don’t know if I should over step a boundary here,” Remedy CEO and co-owner Matthew Hastad said.
Hastad says the training is important because dangerous situations can bubble up quickly in a bar setting.
“Yes and unfortunately it kind of comes with the territory. Any time you serve alcohol, you always enter into that realm of providing a space where it’s possible,” Hastad said.
“Anywhere from just slapping somebody on the butt to dragging somebody down the hallway who didn’t want to go down the hallway, “Executive Director of The Compass Center Michelle Markgraf said.
Markgraf says Safe Bars gives people the tools to know how to intervene. Training sessions include watching a video. There’s also discussion and role playing. Tips on how to protect a victim from a harasser can be anything from providing a distraction to telling someone who feels more comfortable stepping in.
“And then there’s also a direct method where you’re actually going up to the person and saying, hey you’re bothering this person. You have to leave. Being very direct on what you want that person to do,” Markgraf said.
Markgraf says inspiring everyone to prevent dangerous encounters is the main goal. She wants to make Safe Bars the standard in Sioux Falls and adds the conversation is long overdue.
“For too long we’ve put the victim on the focus of how do you dress? Where do you go? What did you say? Making the victim responsible for their safety when in reality it’s the entire city of Sioux Falls that needs to be responsible for everyone’s safety,” Markgraf said.
“Correct. 100-percent not tolerated here,” Hastad said.
Hastad wants more local businesses to get on board because sexual harassment can brew up anywhere.
“We’ve dealt with it. Specific instances are very difficult to talk about because there are a lot of one-offs or things that happen that you don’t really expect or don’t really see. For us, it’s being able to get to that before it becomes such an issue where that action is being taken. So if we can try to step in an prevent that or provide those resources for somebody to get away from those situations. That’s what we’d like to do,” Hastad said.
With the weather getting nice and more people heading out for a night on the town, Hastad hopes his business can provide a safe place for the community to come together.
“Being the first, it’s really kind of an honor for us. We’re very excited that The Compass Center chose us to work with them and be the first,” Hastad said.
The Compass Center received its Safe Bars training from the organization out of Washington, D.C. They can now conduct training here in Sioux Falls. The program is being made possible here in KELOLAND thanks to a grant from the South Dakota Community Foundation.