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Changing Norms, Increasing Safety. Is it Possible?

At the SAFE Bar Network, we partner with bars and alcohol-serving venues to create a workplace culture focused on using active bystander skills to increase safety. We achieve this goal by teaching bar and restaurant teams how to have a conversation about noticing concerning behavior, interrupting effectively, and providing support. Then, we support them in continuing this conversation every night of the week. Simply put, our strategy for increasing safety is changing social norms.

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Big picture, social norms, are the unwritten rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group or society. Norms function to provide order and predictability. For the most part, people want approval, they want to belong, and those who do not follow the norms often feel disapproval or are outcast from the group. This is how we keep society functioning, not just with direct rules but also expectations. When people know what is expected of them they tend to comply (read more about social norms here).


Here are some examples of common norms in America.


- Go to the back of the line instead of pushing your way to the front or cutting in.


- When you meet someone shake hands (pre-COVID of course).


- Give people space, don't stand close enough to a stranger to touch arms or hips.


Norms can change according to the situation, environment, or culture and people's behavior will change along with these norms. At the SAFE Bar Network we partner with bars and alcohol-serving venues and help them shift workplace norms to focus on...


  1. Recognizing when someone is uncomfortable or unsafe,

  2. Interrupting the situations to offer help, and

  3. Supporting each other when active bystander skills are used.


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Changing these norms has led to measurable increases in safety at bars in the SAFE Bar Network.


You don’t have to take our word for it though. Over the past three years, we’ve heard from bar owners, managers, and hundreds of participants about the value of the SAFE Bar training conversation. Here’s what bar owner and SAFE Bar Network board member, Kevin Fitzpatrick, has to say about our program.


There are everyday active bystanders practicing the skills to keep people safe every day. Watch their stories here, Everyday Active Bystanders.

To learn more about active bystander skills check out our blog post, Obstacles. What obstacles? 3 Full Proof Everyday Active Bystander Skills.

To learn more about joining the SAFE Bar Network contact us at safebarnetwork@gmail.com

The SAFE Bar Network is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) you can join the team by donating your time, talent, and money to the mission of giving everyone a SAFE Night Out, just click here.


Interested in learning more about bystander intervention? Visit our friends at With Us Center for Bystander Intervention.


If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment our partners can help. Visit MOCSA.org and RAINN.org


To learn more about the field of violence response and prevention visit PreventConnect.org and NSVRC.org

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