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Safer Spaces Campaign Expanded and Renamed

People’s Justice League launched it’s Safer Spaces Campaign in November 2013, training area bartenders and other service providers to recognize early warning signs of potential sexual assault and to step in as active bystanders to prevent assaults from occurring. Director, Sarah Fick, drew upon her 12 years of experience in food and hospitality as well as her training in sexual assault prevention to develop a workshop tailored for servers and bartenders. Over the past four years, the campaign (now called the Active Bystander Coalition) has trained seven uptown area businesses which have taken a pledge to take complaints of sexual harassment seriously and to remove offending parties as needed. In response to community feedback, the group is making changes to the program. Changes to the materials used in the training now make it clear that bystander intervention is a tool that can be used to interrupt any form of harassment. Businesses taking the pledge are given a plaque to be placed behind the bar or counter that reads, “No Racism, No Sexism, No Homophobia.” Bartenders are asked to make it clear to their patrons that microaggressions, offensive jokes, and other harassing behavior will not be tolerated within their establishment, eliminating the slippery slope that allows perpetrators of more heinous forms of violence to think they may be able to get away with it. Participating businesses are marked with a sticker on their door and listed on PJL’s website.


“When we named this training effort the Safer Spaces Campaign, we were aligning ourselves with other projects around the world working in a similar fashion, but what’s more important is that what we are doing works for our community. We were contacted by several people who were concerned about us labeling places where harassment and other forms of violence had already occurred as “safe,” and there was a lot of confusion between our program and Safe Zone, which trains folks to be better allies to the LGBTQ community, and Safe Place, which identifies spaces where runaway youth can get support. I’m happy with the new name because it more accurately depicts what we’re doing,” says PJL Board Member, Devin Canary.


The goal of the Active Bystander Coalition is to create a network of supportive environments within the Southeast Ohio area. People’s Justice League is working with Lush Charity Pot and Rakefire LLC to upgrade their existing website to allow customers to give feedback on how well each business is upholding the pledge and to create a mobile application that will make navigating the site on a smartphone a breeze. The app should be available winter 2017. Community members can help by encouraging more businesses to participate, and by submitting incidents of any form of hate or harassment happening in Southeast Ohio through the group’s online Incident Reporter. Sharing what’s happening informs the community of issues they may not know are a problem and directs PJL programming. Stories submitted through the Incident Reporter are shared on social media and used during workshops to get people thinking about how they might respond.


Sarah Fick is a certified trainer in Green Dot and Safe Bars, two evidence-based bystander intervention curricula. She can be reached at [email protected].