Sexual Assault Prevention Program Debuts In New Paltz

Jan 24, 2018

There’s a new program in Ulster County, New York, to help prevent sexual assault. The Ulster County executive says the program that provides bystander training for bar and tavern staff is the first such program in the state.

County Executive Mike Hein says the Ulster County Bystanders Against Sexual Assault program has been launched in the college town of New Paltz with the help of the New Paltz Bar and Tavern president and town police.

“The people who are owners of these establishments, they want their people to feel empowered,” Hein says. “We want their people to feel empowered, and we want to be in a situation where put an end to sexual assault and this is the kind of innovative thinking that will get it done.”

Currently, three bars are participating in the pilot program: P&G’s Restaurant & Bar; McGillicuddy’s Restaurant & Tap House; and Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub. Establishments that have completed the training will receive a certificate designed so that SUNY New Paltz students and area residents will know that the establishment cares about preventing sexual assault.

The program stems from the county’s Crime Victims Assistance Program. Cynthia Craft is Enough is Enough Coordinator and Ulster County Crime Victims Advocate at SUNY New Paltz. She says the idea for the program came from a tactic that has spread through social media and around the globe — asking for an Angel Shot. It’s where women who need help out of a bad date or unsafe situation at a bar or restaurant go to the bartender and ask for an Angel Shot, code for ‘please help.” Craft decided to reconfigure this, taking the onus off the victim and designing a training program with offender behavior in mind.

“What it comes down to is that most offenders offend against multiple people,” Craft says. “So if we can stop one offender, ultimately we’re preventing multiple assaults, and that’s kind of the premise that we kind of ran with.”

Craft says the program seeks to change the culture that, knowingly or not, supports sexual assault. The idea is to help the bars in Ulster County send a clear message that certain behaviors will not be tolerated and to create a safe space for everyone. Craft and a colleague facilitate the training, and conducted a few in the fall. And she shares some warning signs that are covered in the training.

“What we’re trying to get them to look for are, that aggressive person who’s not taking no for an answer; the group that is using catcalls or putdowns, just verbally harassing customers; the person who comes in and perhaps buys one drink but is watching to see who’s drinking a lot or ordering a lot of drinks for a particular person, those types of behaviors that may indicate they’re there for a different reason,” says Craft.

Town of New Paltz Police Chief Joseph Snyder says bar and tavern employees are on the front lines in being able to help prevent sexual assault.

“Really, they’re the eyes for us out there. So their ability to be trained to look for warning signs, to identify potential issues and/or a potential victim based on, whether over-intoxication, whether it being left alone by other friends or seeing somebody that appears to be a perpetrator, particularly eyeing someone out will be beneficial,” Synder says. “And then getting the police involvement or calling for a ride or stopping them from leaving by themselves, it’s a great program to assist, and that’s why I think New Paltz is a great location for this to be a nice program to try out here.”

Again, Hein.

“This is about all of us together, working to be able to make sure we put an end to this, and once and for all says enough is enough and have it mean something,” says Hein.

Craft notes that about half of all sexual assault perpetrators are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the assault. She hopes more New Paltz establishments will come on board and, ultimately, other bars and taverns elsewhere in the county. Hein hopes the program will serve as a model to be replicated across the state. So does Snyder.

“I definitely think that this is something that should be shared across the state,” says Snyder. “Again, we’re kind of the trial town for this training, but the buy-in that we’re getting from the employees of the taverns has been awesome.”

Craft says owners of establishments who would like their employees trained in helping to prevent sexual assault may contact her at the county’s Crime Victims Assistance Program office: (845) 340-3443