Nonprofit teaches bartenders to spot signs of sexual violence

Posted: Updated:
PATCHOGUE VILLAGE -

A new bartender training program aims to help mixologists spot the warning signs of violence and sexual abuse.

More than 50 percent of sexual assaults involve alcohol or drugs, according to Colleen Merlot, of the group Long Island Against Domestic Violence. That's why she's teaching a training program that aims to make places that serve alcohol safer.

Retreat Incorporated, an East Hampton-based domestic violence service group, developed the course, which is currently only offered in Patchogue with funding from a state grant. It teaches bartenders how to recognize the warning signs of sexual assault in two sessions that are two hours each.

"They can use their instinct to know when something doesn't feel right," Merlot says. "And to intervene in some way."

That can be as simple as calling someone a cab, she says.

James Gilroy, who owns Fulton's Irish Pub, had his staff take the course this week.

"It's not so much about stopping people that are physically attacking each other, it's about seeing the signs earlier and saying, 'You know what, maybe we should head this off,'" he says. "And knowing what our rights are from behind the bar."

Even Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri supports the program.

"A program such as this protects the young ladies that come in, protects the ownership and the bartenders," he says.

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