Ketchikan nonprofit looks to train servers, bartenders to recognize signs of abuse

People stand outside of the Women in Safe Homes shelter in Ketchikan. WISH wants to educate local bartenders and waitstaff through an initiative called Safe Bars, which gives them tools to recognize an escalating situation and to intervene if needed. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

The Ketchikan nonprofit Women in Safe Homes, or WISH, is looking to train local bartenders and waitstaff on how to recognize and prevent domestic and sexual violence.

J.D. Martin, a member of the education department of WISH, says the new program is called Safe Bars. Martin says it’s part of a larger suite of initiatives that aim to strengthen and educate the community by giving them the tools necessary to recognize an escalating situation and intervene if needed.

“Sometimes when we’re talking about domestic violence, people will think, you know, you hear the stats, and people then feel moved to like, well, what can I do to have a positive impact on the community and on people you might know who are victims of violence. And so we have a couple programs that are geared towards empowering individuals to be able to speak up when they see things,” Martin said.

Safe Bars is a two-hour training that helps those in hospitality better recognize the signs of sexual violence. Martin says a handful of bar and restaurant staff have already taken the training. Eventually, she says WISH hopes to have bar and restaurant managers help facilitate the class.

Martin says Safe Bars is a part of a larger WISH initiative aimed at teaching people how to recognize and respond to signs of domestic and sexual violence. According to a 2020 study by Alaska’s Council of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, almost 50% of women and 30% of men are likely to experience some form of domestic violence in their life.

Another WISH training, the Green Dot program, also focuses on prevention and has been taught worldwide to people of all age groups. Last year WISH started a version of the program for high school students in Ketchikan. The class is limited to 15 participants but also comes with a $100 incentive to any student who completes the four-hour course.

Martin says these trainings are free and available to anyone. Though the organization is called Women in Safe Homes, it provides services to people of any gender. Any business, organization, or group that thinks that this initiative would be beneficial for them is invited to reach out and organize training.

WISH recently held a grand opening for its new shelter at the former Ketchikan Regional Youth Facility, but Martin says WISH is still taking donations and offering services at its First Avenue shelter. Martin says WISH is aiming to move into the new shelter by Nov. 22.

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