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Secret code protects women from sexual harassment, abuse at bars

Posted at 11:58 PM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-17 11:47:07-05

CINCINNATI -- If you're unhappy or feel you're being treated badly, the age-old question to victims of abuse and harassment goes, why not just leave?

Short answer: Because it's often not that easy. Recent high-profile accounts of sexual assault in show business and politics include vivid, wrenching descriptions of both the abuse and the victims' struggle to react to it in the moment.

In a dangerous situation, resisting can carry a risk of escalation. Making a scene, especially with a date or coworker, can send shockwaves through a victim's career and social life. For many victims, it's safer to endure than to attempt an escape.

Women Helping Women wants to flip the script for victims in Cincinnati. The nonprofit is partnering with local bars such as Queen City Radio to create a system that empowers bartenders to help patrons out of uncomfortable, intimidating situations safely.

"(Harassment) is not alcohol's fault," bartender Louisa Reckman said. "It's the perpetrator's fault, but it just makes it easier for perpetrators to actually cause harm."

That's why Reckman and her coworkers have learned a code word that patrons who feel harassed and intimidated can use at the bar to let the staff know they need a way out. 

The code was developed by Women Helping Women, an organization that advocates for victims of sexual assault, harrassment, rape and stalking.

"It could be routing them back to their friends, connecting them, it can be getting them home safely through an Uber, Lyft, what-have-you," Women Helping Women CEO Kristin Shrimplin said.

WCPO is not reporting this code word for obvious reasons, but Shrimplin said patrons can easily find it if they need it. 

Anti-harassment campaigns similar to this one protect both patrons and bartenders from dangerous situations and clientele, and they're becoming increasingly popular across the globe.

"If somebody is acting inappropriately, they are gone," Reckman said. "I don't care who you are. Get out."