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Vol 39  No 7
Dec. 14, 2006


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New program aims to protect bar goers

Who is watching your drink?
by Jeff Green

There’ll be lots of drinks flowing in the coming days and weeks as Memorial students celebrate not only the end of fall semester and exams, but also the start of their holiday break.

Patrons to Memorial’s two St. John’s bars, the Breezeway and Bitters, may have taken notice of coasters like this one. They’re part of a new violence prevention campaign organized by the Coalition Against Violence for the Eastern Avalon and contain an important message.

But a local advocacy group has a stern message for students to keep in mind as they head out to parties: keep an eye on your drink.

The Coalition Against Violence for the Eastern Avalon recently launched a new violence prevention campaign.

On Dec. 1 – the last day of regular classes – it circulated coasters at the Breezeway and Bitters – along with several other bars off campus – with the question: “Who’s watching your drink?” On the opposite side of the coasters there’s contact information for help groups including Memorial’s Sexual Harassment Office.

Organizers want people to realize that drug facilitated sexual assault is on the rise.

In fact, they say it only takes second for somebody to slip something into a drink.

And, they have numbers to back up their claim. Dana English, co-ordinator of the Coalition Against Violence for the Eastern Avalon, said in the last year, at least 40 people have gone to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners clinic in St. John’s for treatment following a sexual assault.

She said what’s even more shocking is that about 70 per cent of them couldn’t remember anything despite only having a drink or two.

“The bar scene, for example, is very dangerous in terms of people’s sense of judgment being inhibited by the alcohol they’re consuming,” said Ms. English, who is a graduate of Memorial’s Faculty of Arts. “But these types of things may not be happening just downtown. A lot of it could happen at house parties as well because alcohol is left unmonitored.”

Ms. English said both young women and men have been the targets of these kinds of assaults. She said because Memorial has a huge concentration of young post-secondary students, it was only obvious to partly launch their campaign at the university.

“One of our primary audiences we wanted to target was Memorial because in a sense it is a community unto itself,” she explained, adding that it took several months to finalize the design and language of the coasters. “We also worked with the bar owners and told them about our project.”

With the holiday season fast approaching, Ms. English said students should be on the alert while at parties and bars. “We just want to remind them that drug facilitated sexual assault is happening, it’s a serious thing and to be cognizant of it over the holidays and at all times of the year,” she added.

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