DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Sofia Garcia is a senior at the University of Dayton and the Student Body President. Since the beginning of her college career at UD, she has been working hard to be a champion for victims of sexual assault.
“From my own personal experience as a survivor, I thought it was super important. I didn’t want others to feel the way I felt. Even though my experience was pre-college, you still know what happens once you get on campus,” Garcia explained.
After learning about the Gem City Safe Program through the YWCA of Dayton, she knew she needed to bring those resources to the heart of UD night life on Brown Street.
“I thought this would just be great to start doing here because there is a multitude of bars here that I think would really benefit from it. And also just being able to help the students was one thing that I really wanted to do is promote safety,” Garcia said.
Topher Peck, a Sexual Violence Preventionist at YWCA, said the Gem City Safe Bar program is a two-and-a-half hour long training session that helps restaurant and bar staff know the signs of sexual violence and how they can stop it.
“We provide them with a variety of strategies, bystander intervention strategies, that allow them to, when they’re analyzing the situation, step in with the safest method of prevention for themselves and for the environment as well,” Peck said.
A number of bars in Downtown Dayton have gone through the training. The YWCA also deemed Brown St. a hot spot for sexual violence with its proximity to the UD campus. According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 13 percent of college students experience sexual violence. Chief Savalas Kidd with UD Campus Police believes this safe bar initiative will make a big difference when it comes to student safety.
“Sexual assaults occur everywhere. And so with these initiatives that we have, we want to bring awareness, situational awareness, and we want to mitigate and reduce our students and members of our community from being victimized,” Chief Kidd explained.
Garcia hopes this training program will add another layer of protection and show students they are not alone when they are away at college.
“I’m not saying it will cure everything, but I do think it’s a great first step in taking those precautions, in taking those learning lessons, and to just show how you can care for someone who’s not feeling safe,” Garcia said.
Timothy’s Pub and Grill is the first bar on Brown St. to undergo the safe bar training. The YWCA and Garcia hope more bars on Brown St. will take the training. To sign up or learn more about the program, click here.