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Fozzie's joins ranks of Bemidji bars to complete Safe Bars training

Staff at Fozzie's Smokin Bar-B-Q are now just a bit more educated on how to handle situations they may face when it comes to sexual violence prevention.

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BEMIDJI -- Staff at Fozzie's Smokin Bar-B-Q are now just a bit more educated on how to handle situations they may face when it comes to sexual violence prevention.

On Monday, Support Within Reach Development and Outreach Coordinator Kori Nelson and Executive Director Evett Ellis led a Safe Bars training, which focuses on sexual violence intervention and prevention in liquor-serving establishments.

“You don’t want your bar to be known as a place with a bad reputation when it comes to sexual assault,” Nelson said during the training. “This training delves deep into the impact of alcohol and how much it plays a role in assault.”

The staff participated in a variety of activities including reading real-life local assault stories, ranking different behaviors on a “spectrum of violence” and role-playing bystander intervention scenarios.

Taking part in Safe Bars training allows local establishments a $200 annual discount on their liquor licenses through the city of Bemidji and a one-time $200 discount through Beltrami County. Bemidji bars that have also completed the training include Slim’s Bar and Grill, Keg N’ Cork and Hard Times. The training requires two hours and 80% of front-of-house staff with one-hour follow-up training each year afterwards to remain eligible.

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Nelson also shared several statistics regarding sexual assault. The national average of assaults that involve alcohol is 50% although the rate in Bemidji is 80%. On average, nine out of 10 women have been sexually harassed while working in bars and restaurants while seven out of 10 men have been harassed.

She said that one out of six women and one out of 33 men in the U.S. have experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault and/or rape in their lifetimes although the rate for men may be higher due to lack of reporting. For women and girls ages 12 and older, 90% of attackers are known to the victim.

Nelson said that statistics like these along with her own personal experiences are what led her to initially become active with Support Within Reach.

“I identify as a survivor of sexual violence,” Nelson said. “Back when I was a teenager, the program wasn’t as active and there weren’t many resources around, so finding my way into adulthood led me down this path to become an advocate.”

Aside from Safe Bar training, Support Within Reach has been present in Bemidji through other events. They recently had a booth at the Boys and Girls Club’s National Night Out on Aug. 3 and also set up information at Lueken’s and Marketplace Foods once a month throughout the summer.

The organization is also responsible for conducting resident assistant training at Bemidji State and Oak Hills Christian College and will be attending Oak Hills’ Outreach Volunteer Fair that takes place every year in the fall.

Support Within Reach is in the planning stages for its 2022 fundraiser set to take place next April. The last fundraising event was held in June 2019, with Corey Medina and Brothers performing at Brigid’s Pub alongside a 50/50 raffle and silent auction. After a hiatus that came with the pandemic, organizers are now brainstorming an “Amazing Race,” more details for which will be revealed in the coming months.

Support Within Reach also provides a host of resources including Safe/Unsafe Touch information to local elementary schools along with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s workbook for families regarding sexual violence prevention.

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“We are super busy right now with COVID restrictions being lifted,” Nelson said. “We have connections to present to colleges and other community groups, and we are welcoming more volunteers.”

Having participated in the non-profit job and volunteer fair hosted by the United Way of Bemidji Area on Aug. 9, the organization is currently seeking a volunteer receptionist/in-office support member. Nelson said they are also looking for after-hours volunteers to take crisis calls and seeking new board members.

Most volunteers require a 40-hour training that’s available online, with a few in-person components, and in-person training can be provided if needed.

More information on Support Within Reach events, resources and volunteer opportunities can be found at www.supportwithinreach.org .

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