Durham City night workers to receive Bystander Training to prevent sexual violence and harassment

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Durham City night time workers will receive Bystander Training in a new initiative to prevent sexual violence and harassment.

The workshops will be delivered by Darlington and County Durham’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (RSACC) over the next fifteen months after the charity received funding from the Ministry of Justice for the scheme.

Durham students have expressed their optimism to Palatinate that this initiative will help to tackle sexual harassment on nights out.

According to the RSACC, the 1-hour Bystander Training workshop will cover “understanding what a bystander is and the role they can play”, “recognising… personal boundaries on acceptable behaviours and intervention”, “understanding the issues you need to consider when witnessing an event”, as well as “understanding the correct and safe ways to intervene.”

The funding was allocated to the RSACC to deliver these workshops after a successful bid by the Office of Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner as part of the Government’s Safer Streets Fund, which supports organisations in initiatives to tackle neighbourhood crime, violence against women and girls and anti-social behaviour.

“Our training will empower workers to identify and safely intervene in situations of sexual harassment”

isabel owens, ceo of rsacc

Isabel Owens, the CEO of RSACC, which was established in 1990 and provides free and confidential support to survivors of rape, sexual abuse and domestic abuse, commented, “We are delighted that the PCC has been able to fund our Bystander Training, which will support the safety of women and girls on nights out in Durham City.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe but we know sexual harassment is a significant issue across our towns and cities. Our training will empower workers to identify and safely intervene in situations of sexual harassment to ensure people across Durham feel safe when they are out and about.”

Durham’s Students’ Union itself offers a two-hour Active Bystander Training course which are conducted by trained peer-facilitators. Durham University also provides other training courses for students and staff on their Oracle Learning system, as well as bookable consent workshops, as part of its Sexual Misconduct and Violence Policy. This includes the ‘Consent Matters: Boundaries, Respect and Positive Intervention’ online course that all new students are “expected” to complete.

Verity Newbery, the President of Durham University Against Sexual Assault, responded to the new Bystander Training workshops by saying, “As a society we are thrilled to hear that Durham City are taking initiative to educate workers on how to act as an active bystander. We believe that all students and staff should have access to this sort of training from charities such as RSACC. Hopefully this will set a great example for other institutions to follow and combat sexual assault.”

Palatinate has spoken to Durham City workers who will be receiving this training to gather their reaction to the news. One student, who works at a Durham night club, commented that, “it is a great initiative and I would feel more comfortable intervening in a situation having had training to identify when it is appropriate to do so. I hope it helps girls in Durham feel safer on a night out.”

“Eradicating gender-based violence is a responsibility of society as a whole, and we all have our part to play”

durham’s police and crime commissioner, joy allen

Another Durham student bartender commented to Palatinate, “I think the initiative would be fantastic for bar workers and for student safety.” They expressed fears about being undertrained, “I personally feel that I don’t have adequate training nor confidence to competently observe and intervene. … [It] is absolutely the right decision to intervene in this issue by providing more comprehensive training.”

In reaction to their successful bid for funding from the Ministry of Justice, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen said, “Eradicating gender-based violence is a responsibility of society as a whole, and we all have our part to play.

“Through the roll out of bystander training, we will not only equip night-time economy workers with the skills they need to prevent harassment before it escalates into more serious sexual crimes, we will also send out a strong message to potential perpetrators that their behaviour will not be tolerated in our county.

“Violence against women and girls is never acceptable, and we all need to act to call out behaviour that falls short of the law, demonstrating by action that it has no place in our society.”

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