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Women of the Vine & Spirits Partners with RAINN and DISCUS for Free Industry Training on Workplace Harassment


By Robin Shreeves

 

January 27, 2022 - It happened again, just this week. Another person in power in the beverage alcohol industry was accused of sexual harassment, or “inappropriate behavior toward female staff,” as Brewbound diplomatically phrased it in their headline. 

BrewDog’s CEO James Watts denies the accusations against him, but former employees of the company say they needed to do things like base company taproom staff schedules ”around Watt’s presence to minimize contact between the CEO and women who worked behind the bar.”


These types of accusations are all too common across the various sectors of the beverage alcohol industry. It’s been less than a year since what was labeled “Beer’s Me Too Movement” shook up the industry, but as the accusations against Watts indicate, clearly the movement did not change everything. 


No one in the beverage alcohol industry is naive enough to believe that assaults, harassment and other “inappropriate behavior” will disappear simply because a light is sometimes shined on abuse of power. It’s wishful thinking to assume that because a problem has been identified, it has also been solved. 


A Pledge Condemning Harassment Means Nothing Unless You Do Something


Wishes won’t solve this abuse. Neither will only speaking out against it, although that’s important. 


“The nature of our industry is that you can have the best policies within your corporate office, but so many people work in the field,” says Women of the Vine & Spirits (WOTVS) founder and CEO Deborah Brenner. 


When employees are off-premise, home office policies aren’t very helpful.

“The other thing we know is that sexual harassment abuse is more of a power issue than a sexual issue. Because we work in a 3-tier system that is highly regulated by federal and state governments, there’s a lot of power dynamics.”


In 2021, WOTVS released a Pledge of Commitment to End Workplace Harassment. But, a statement or pledge alone “means nothing unless you’re going to actually do something,” says Brenner. 


So WOTVS chose to do something by partnering with RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to offer a free, ongoing, interactive training series for industry members aimed at both prevention of inappropriate behavior and response to inappropriate behavior.


“We went to RAINN because they had the expertise but also because we knew they had that ability that if anybody needed assistance, RAINN has their hotline and counselors 24/7,” says Brenner. (Information on accessing RAINN’s assistance is at the end of this article.)


Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Training for the Alcohol Beverage Industry


WOTVS hired RAINN to customize a training program specifically for the beverage alcohol industry. In April of 2021, RAINN conducted what was to be just one training session, but when the organization announced the training, Brenner got an email from DISCUS asking how they could support this important work.


With financial support from DISCUS, WOTVS is now able to offer both Level 1: Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response Training and Level 2: Strategies for Creating Safe, Healthier Communities, free of charge, on an ongoing basis. Participants do not have to be members of WOTVS or DISCUS.


The training is designed for individuals in the industry, both men and women, for prevention and response. 


“We encourage people at all levels to take the training,” says Brenner. “This is interactive, it’s not just a video that you watch that’s a standard sexual harassment video. Every time the training can take on some of its own nuances because it does provide Q&A with the attendees.”


Part of the 90-minute training is bystander intervention.


“The bystander intervention is critically important as leaders in the industry to protect your colleagues in the industry as well as protect yourself. That’s why we encourage men and women to take the training,” says Brenner.


The next Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Training for the Alcohol Beverage Industry Level 1 session is February 8, 2022, with Level 2 a week later on February 15. There are also dates for both sessions in April and May. 


RAINN is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, leading the country in providing services that are victim-centered and trauma-informed. RAINN utilizes best and promising practices in the field of sexual assault prevention and response, as well as lessons learned from the over 3 million users of the National Sexual Assault Hotline and Online hotline.  

 

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, the National Sexual Assault Hotline provides free, anonymous 24/7 support via phone at 800.656.4673 or chat via the online hotline. RAINN’s website (www.rainn.org) also provides information on supporting loved ones who are survivors, helping yourself heal if you’ve been directly affected by sexual violence, and how to be part of creating safer communities. 

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