Rape crisis center training Akron bar staff to prevent drug facilitated sexual assault

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AKRON, Ohio - There's no shortage of entertainment in Akron's Highland Square neighborhood, but Wednesday one bar owner turned down the music to learn about how bar staff can become an active bystander in sexual assault prevention.

Staff at the Hope and Healing Survivor Resource Center of Medina and Summit Counties said they are offering free training to neighborhood bars across the city about how to stop drug facilitated sexual assault.

"Trying to educate bar staff and managers about what it looks like when somebody has potentially been drugged with drug facilitated sexual assault drugs," said Ohia Thompson an outreach advocate at the Hope and Healing Rape Crisis Center.

Wednesday, Thompson was at Annabell's Bar and Lounge posting fliers and talking with the owner about training staff how to spot symptoms of a patron who may be drugged.

"You don’t always know who is with who," said Billy Reynolds about his bartending staff. "If someone walks away, currently, they may pull a drink or cover it if somebody asks but you aren’t always there or aware."

Reynolds said it's his responsibility as a small business owner to take an active part in keeping patrons safe and joining community initiatives.

"We know that about 70% of all sexual assaults involve alcohol and or other types of drugs," said Sandy Parker of the Hope and Healing Rape Crisis Center. "Often times it’s over the counter drugs."

According to Thompson, alcohol remains the most common chemical in crimes of sexual assault. She said alcohol mixed with other substances including over the counter medicines, ecstasy, Zolpidem, GHB, Ketamine, MDMA, Zolpidem and Benzodiazepines can produce a sedative effect.

Thompson said symptoms can range from confusion, excessive intoxication after one or two drinks, to seizures and unconsciousness. She said it's especially important to spread awareness time of year because it's ahead of the fall college semester.

"There’s something called the red zone which is the first six weeks of school where new students are at a much higher risk of experiencing sexual assault and drug facilitated sexual assault," explained Thompson.

Thompson said the goal is to revisit the 30 bars and restaurants they've made contact with and train the entire staff in the near future.

The Hope and Healing Survivor Resource Center consists of a shelter and rape crisis center. Crisis intervention, support groups and justice system advocacy are among some of the services provided. A 24-hour-rape crisis hotline can be reached at (330) 434-7273.

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