Charleston Organization Works With Bars To Combat Sexual Assault Epidemic

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The Charleston organization People Against Rape is partnering with area bars to educate bar owners and employees about sexual assault awareness and provide additional information for community outreach. People Against Rape is also providing a program called Upstander Training which teaches bartenders what they can look for in terms of decreasing the risk factors in their establishment. Whether it’s about over-serving people or even slipping things into someone’s drink, there are things that bartenders and bar owners should know to keep their patrons safe.

The Post and Courier says that Chris DiMattia, the owner of Recovery Room Tavern, realized that there was a significant problem in Charleston when he put up posters in the bathroom about rape and sexual assault that was fitted with a cardholder with takeaways with sexual assault resources. He explains that all of the cards were gone almost immediately.

“We had to call (People Against Rape) after the first weekend, and be like, can we get more cards? She was like, I left you a bunch. And we were like, no, they’re gone. We burned through well over 100,” DiMattia said.

People Against Rape is a Charleston-based sexual assault advocacy group that is working with local bars to raise awareness that the incidence of sexual assault increases around alcohol and drugs.


Because risk increases around alcohol, People Against Rape started the Upstander Training program for “bartenders to recognize and resolve potentially risky situations, and outfitting bars with materials that make clear harassment isn’t tolerated on the premises.”

People Against Rape spokesperson Shelby Wade says other programs exist across the country, including Safe Bars in Washington, D.C., and they have the same purpose, which is to provide a safe environment for a night out. She says that being aware of verbal cues could make the difference in someone’s safety.

“One scenario we talk about is if you hear someone say ‘two more drinks and she’ll be good to go.’ We explain it’s important to shut down those comments.”

DiMattia says he wasn’t naive to what can happen in a bar setting, but he was surprised to learn some of the techniques that assaulters can use to prey on a victim.

“People slip something in a drink so quickly, and they’re sneaky, terrible people to begin with, so they do it when your back is turned. You always think it’s the weird guy in the corner, but so often it’s friends or acquaintances. It’s not necessarily a magic pill slipped in a drink, but it’s like, here, take a shot.”


Upstander Training teaches bartenders what drinks look like after they’ve been tampered with and whether they cause “discoloration or foaming.” DiMattia says he now has a certificate to show that his bartenders have completed the course.

Recently the #metoo spotlight shined on Charleston on the Bravo hit, Southern Charm, whose star, Thomas Ravenel, quit the show, according to The State, due to multiple rape accusations. Ravenel sat out the reunion after the accusations surfaced, including complaints from the family nanny who is accusing Ravenel, 56.

And while College of Charleston students contribute to the crowds in the bar scene, Ravenel isn’t the only older man to be accused of sexual assault, which many assume is generally perpetrated by young men.

The Charleston City Paper reports that this summer, a popular Charleston restaurant owner, Sam Mustafa, was arrested and charged with assaulting a woman outside of Hall’s Chophouse.

“The victim then stated the offender grabbed her by the hair causing her to bend over while forcing her face toward the ground. As he continued to do this she was yelling ‘Please stop, please stop.’ [Mustafa, then] let go of her hair and pushed her chest causing her to fall backward and hit the back of her head on the ground.”

Mustafa was also charged with rape in 2013, but those charges were dropped.

People Against Rape is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (843) 577-9882.