Local bartenders get sexual harassment training


The “Me Too” movement has prompted the State Department of Health to fund sexual harassment training for bars and several local establishments are taking advantage of it.

If you’re headed to the bar to celebrate the holiday season, there might be an extra set of eyes keeping you safe. Twelve local bars are getting training to help staff recognize unwanted behavior and step in before it escalates.

With ten years of bartending under her belt, Emma Sawyer has seen it all.

“I’ve seen true love and I’ve seen people be very aggressive and it really is a spectrum and that’s kind of the dangers of working with alcohol,” she said.

And now she and her co-workers at Savoy Taproom have a new set of tools to stop harassment thanks to state-funded training that begins with identifying it.

“It’s kind of hard to tell when someone’s nervous laughing because they’re uncomfortable or laughing because they’re flirting so really reading body language was huge,” said Sawyer.

Breaking down exactly what to watch for is Rachel Wilson from the Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center.

“When someone is being flirtatious usually they have their body turned toward the other person, they’re looking directly at them, whereas with aggression we see that people’s feet are turned away, their shoulders are turned away, maybe they’re sort of looking around trying to find a friend,” said Wilson.
Now it will be a friend behind the bar answering the silent call for help at twelve Albany hot spots on Lark Street and downtown that are undergoing the “Safer Bars” training.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy says the training can be especially eye opening for men.

“They just think, ‘oh that guys just trying to pick her up,’ or whatever the scenario’s going on, but with this training maybe they’ll look at it differently.”

Sawyer has been on both sides of the bar…

“Because I know what it’s like to be bothered at the bar, “ she said.

And now she knows exactly when to come to the rescue and what to say…giving women a measure of comfort so they can enjoy a night out.

Savoy Taproom was the first bar to sign on and the county is hoping other bars follow suit. Bars can get the training at no cost.

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