Part 2: Taking Action Against Sexual Assault in the Industry – Dandelion Initiative

Please take time to read Part 1 of our Taking Action Against Sexual Assault in the Industry series before continuing with this one.

It’s now 2017. Yet, in this modern age – in this age of supposed freedom and equal rights, our industry is not working hard enough. In the past year throughout the world there have been big headline cases of sexual assaults on women within this industry of hospitality. Alleged sexual assaults by people who acted as leaders to the industry, to new bartenders, to all of us. Why, in 2017, is this behaviour dubbed acceptable and why is it continuing to happen? As a community, we need to come together to put a stop to it. Enough is enough. Every member of this industry should feel safe within it. Every patron at your bar should feel safe. Every person in this vast world should feel safe from the potential harm of sexual assault. Full stop.

The way we can become better as a community is to talk about it. To start voicing our concerns. To educate. To speak up when we see something that isn’t right. We at Bartender Atlas are serious about this and we want to help in any way that we are able. We want this industry to be better because we know that we can be. We are better than this. So with that, we begin a series of posts about sexual assault in the industry. We have asked experts in the field to weigh in. We have reached out to those making a difference to tell us what they are doing. We hope that by having these conversations, those headline news stories will happen no more and that we all start looking out for one another better.

We continue this series with a post by Viktoria Belle of Toronto. She is the creator of the Dandelion Initiative which is a training program geared towards bars and restaurants.

I’ve worked in the service industry for 8 years and have dismissed much behaviour and treatment that I thought just came with the territory of being a woman and a bartender. It wasn’t until I was sexually assaulted myself that I really understood how flawed this thinking is and how damaging it is to our industry. A simple act of complacency can turn into an entire culture of complacency and acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that most bars are not safe spaces for all people, especially women and self identified women. That most bars do not have anti-violence and anti-harassment training and protocols and that we often are okay with being bystanders because intervening can mean losing ones job.

After many months of research, reaching out to survivors and consulting with the community here in the City of Toronto, I knew that The Dandelion Project was needed now more than ever.

The Dandelion Project aims to hold establishments accountable to the public by complying with Bill 132 in a transparent way. The project also aims to create anti-violence and anti-harassment policies, real life protocols that will create safe spaces for not only patrons but for employees as well. With the Dandelion Project, the goal is to create a training manual based on current research and feedback from the survivor community. This training manual would help employers train themselves and staff in anti violence and anti harassment protocols and procedures. After training is complete and the establishment has clear anti violence and anti harassment policies and procedures they will be awarded a dandelion sticker for their window to let patrons know that this is a safe and accountable space. There will be a Public Service Announcement and information about the project with emphasis on social media awareness, this will help patrons understand the importance of the dandelion sticker. Our hope is that organisations in other cities can initiate their own program similar to The Dandelion Project.

What would this training and what would these protocols look like? Every community has different needs and we have to keep in mind that training and building anti violence and anti harassment policies and procedures will look different based on the needs of the staff and patrons. But there are a few key elements that will help anyone ensure that their establishment is a safe space for all people with zero tolerance.

Things to consider:

1. What is your demographic and needs of your patrons? Do you often have to help women or self identified women leave unsafe dates? Do you feel unsure about how to get people to a safe space? Do you know how to safely intervene if a situation requires it? Can you spot the signs of a dangerous situation?

2. What is your Province/State/County legislation for anti violence and anti harassment compliance? Are there local organizations to help you get the right information, so you understand your responsibility in compliance?

3. Can you designate two days of training for employees and employers in anti harassment and anti violence policies?

4. What safe words, images and PSA would help your patrons understand that there is always someone there to help if they need it.

By implementing education and training to establishments and employees, we can create a safer environment for everyone. Something as simple as an image in a bathroom that says “need help take this yellow ticket and hand it to the bartender” can work. This is a private, secure and simple way to let staff know that someone needs help leaving a situation. The staff member could then casually take the ticket and escort them into a safe space to asses the situation. If there is no time, the staff could ask them to write down on a piece of paper what they need. Remember, calling the authorities if you are scared or unsure can be a good solution as well.

The Dandelion is in it’s grassroots stage and we are working hard to grow it into something that will become a standard for all cities. There is no better time than now to come together as a community, internationally and locally, to stand up against sexual assault and violence against women. We have no more time to be complacent, we have no more space to remain silent and we have every opportunity to create change. Join in the movement and create safe spaces for all people in and out of our bars and restaurants.


Viktoria Belle
Viktoria Belle had trained as an Early Childhood Educator and worked in inner city communities across Toronto for many years before transitioning to her current position as outreach coordinator at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care. She is the Co-founder of the Sexual Assault Action Coalition and the Coordinator of the Dandelion Project. Viktoria is a survivor, immigrant, woman, musician, artist, activist and dedicated community advocate.
Viktoria Belle on Facebook