ETSU program helping to provide Safe Bars training to prevent sexual assault

Published 1:25 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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JOHNSON CITY – A new bystander intervention education program aimed at training bar and restaurant staff to help prevent sexual assault is being offered free to local establishments in partnership with the HELP SARA program at East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing.
“Safe Bars is a national and state program that we have adapted locally to help train bartenders, servers, and anyone in the restaurant industry, particularly those that serve alcohol. This training helps them to spot the warning signs of sexual harassment that could potentially lead to sexual assault and then how to intervene before an assault occurs,” said Lenee Hendrix, HELP SARA grant coordinator at ETSU and sexual assault response team (SART) coordinator at the Branch House. “We took some of the ideas behind the state and national programs and created our own online curriculum that we can offer conveniently and at no cost to our community.”
The online training takes approximately an hour and a half to complete and includes information such as tips for recognizing sexual harassment, how to intervene without escalating a situation, strategies for creating a safe environment, and discussion of businesses’ liability and responsibility to create a safe environment.
“It’s important to properly train staff to intervene effectively and to provide reasonable security measures such as well-lit parking lots, locks on the bathroom doors and other safeguards that could prevent assault,” Hendrix said.
When a business signs up for the free Safe Bars training, they are provided with links to the online training they can share with all their employees. In addition, they receive educational posters for the restrooms and a supply of date rape drug test coasters. If a bartender or another employee suspects that a drink has been spiked with a date rape drug such as GHB, or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, they can dip a straw in the drink and drop some on the coaster, which will turn pink if GHB is detected.
“With the Safe Bars program, not only do the employees have the training they need, but we’re also empowering them with tools that they can use to help prevent assault,” Hendrix said.
Restaurants or bars that have at least 80% of their employees complete the training and successfully pass an exam can become a certified “Safe Bars” establishment and will receive a window cling to let customers know that their staff is trained.
Since there is often a high rate of turnover in restaurants and bars, the certification would be renewed on an annual basis to ensure that the percentage of trained employees is maintained, Hendrix added.
This training is one of many opportunities that have arisen from the HELP SARA program. The ETSU College of Nursing received funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish HELP SARA (Health Education Learning Program for Sexual Assault in Rural Appalachia) in 2018. Through the grant, the college has provided forensic nurse education and increased the number of nurses who are trained as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) in rural and underserved populations.
“ETSU’s HELP SARA program and Branch House are excited to offer Safe Bars training to our community,” Hendrix said. “We hope that people will begin to know about and look for the Safe Bars window clings at their favorite bars and restaurants and that it will become part of a community-wide effort to create safer spaces that are free of sexual harassment and assault.”
To find out more about becoming a Safe Bar establishment, contact Lenee Hendrix at or call 423-574-7233. For more information about Branch House, visit To learn more about ETSU College of Nursing, visit

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