STILLWATER, Minn.-Jesse Estrin has seen it all during his five years as a bartender: Men harassing women, women harassing men, men harassing men, women harassing women.
Estrin, who works at The Tilted Tiki in downtown Stillwater, isn't shy about intervening. He will stand in front of the person being targeted, block out the aggressor and establish eye contact with the victim.
"It's my signature move," he said. "I say, 'Just let me know if you need anything.' "
It turns out Estrin has been doing exactly the right thing.
Estrin and his co-workers spent two hours last month learning how to identify and prevent sexual harassment and assault. The free training program, called Safe Bars, was recently started by Canvas Health in Washington County.
One in four women will experience sexual violence in adolescence or early adulthood; at least half of those crimes will happen while the perpetrator is under the influence of alcohol, according to Mercede "Sadie" Cunningham, the abuse-response services specialist for Canvas Health who led the training.
"A lot of people are under the impression, 'Oh, she drank too much, so what does she expect?' " Cunningham told the Tilted Tiki employees. "It leads to a lot of victim-blaming. Only people who perpetrate sexual violence are responsible for sexual violence. They're the only ones who can be held accountable for their choices and their actions. ... Alcohol does not cause sexual assault."
The Tilted Tiki is the second bar in Stillwater to become Safe Bars-certified; the staff at Ziggy's underwent training in February.
"We want this to be a safe space," said Tilted Tiki co-owner Patti Goetzke. "We're a small mom-and-pop shop here, so we want to make sure that we're here for our community. I have kids; I have grandchildren. If my kids were out and about - and they were, in Stillwater in their day - knowing that there was someplace where they could step in and be safe, I think would be very comforting."
Bartender Jessica Morris said she welcomed the training.
"I think we've all seen plenty; we just don't know where to start," she said.
Safe Bars started in Washington, D.C., in 2014; Canvas Health is the first to implement it in Minnesota, Cunningham said.
Staff who have been trained to intervene can reduce a bar's liability, lower the number of police calls and stop a situation from escalating, Cunningham said.
Customers, especially women, feel more comfortable in a safe bar, she said, and are more likely to return. "Sexually aggressive patrons cost you business in the long run," she said.
To intervene: direct, distract, delegate
The program focuses on teaching and empowering bar staff to safely put a stop to dangerous situations or harassment; Cunningham practices with staff to make sure they're comfortable using the skills they've learned.
She suggests a three-pronged approach for intervention: direct, distract and delegate.
"Saying 'I wonder if you know how that comes across' could really be like a light bulb for that person," she said. "Or you could say, 'They're not really appreciating your comments; why don't you cut it out?' or 'Why don't you go to the other end of the bar?' "
Other examples: "Hey, what are you up to?" "Back off, friend." "Just want you to know I've got an eye on you."
"Ask yourselves: What's the cost of not stepping in versus doing something about it?" Cunningham said. "Typically if it's a situation where the people know each other, and it's not an issue, they're still going to appreciate you stepping in."
Enlisting friends - on both sides - is another option, she said.
"You could go talk to someone in the group and say, 'Your friend is harassing this person, and it's not tolerable, and I don't want to have to ask your whole party to leave, but I really need you to intervene and tell your friend to back off,' " she said.
Morris, who lives in St. Croix Falls, Wis., said she sometimes has used humor to intervene.
"If someone says something lewd or creepy or whatever, and I hear it, I'll say: 'Well, that was awkward!' " she said. "It makes the aggressor say, 'Son of a gun, she's paying attention.' "
A few weeks ago, a patron who arrived on a party bus kept trying to pick up women, Morris said.
"I finally went up to him and said, 'Another one? Dude, you're relentless.' "
Estrin said customers who are being targeted generally welcome staff intervention.
"They'll latch on to you," he said. "You can tell the aggressors ... because they want to cut you off and gain control back."
How employees put it to work
Toward the end of the training, Cunningham asked staff to role-play some situations.
In one scene, Patti Goetzke aggressively tried to get a man played by her husband, Chris, to buy her a drink.
Morris and server Ashley Dempsey quickly approached the pair.
"How are you doing, ma'am?" Morris asked.
"I'm just trying to get this guy to buy me a drink," Patti Goetzke said.
"This is my friend Ashley over here," Morris said.
"How is it going?" Dempsey said.
"This guy is standing here," Patti Goetzke said. "I want a drink. He looks like a guy who can afford a drink."
Dempsey and Morris eventually persuaded Goetzke to back down.
"That was great," Patti Goetzke said. "You guys kind of tag-teamed me."
Dempsey, who said she has been hit on by customers, appreciated the training.
"It was really helpful," she said. "It was nice to talk about it as co-workers and know we're all on the same page."
Now that The Tilted Tiki, which is located in the Grand Garage building, has completed its certification, it can display a Safe Bars decal on its window, Cunningham said.
Estrin said he hopes other bars in town will go through the same training.
"We've all heard the horror stories about which places are worse and why," he said. "If more people did this with their staff, it would be a lot better."
He praised the Goetzkes, who opened The Tilted Tiki in November 2016, for supporting the program.
"Some (bar) owners might not want to push (aggressors) out the door and lose that business," he said.
Patti Goetzke said she was pleased to hear her employees were already using many of the strategies Cunningham taught them.
"We're glad you've been recognizing and seeing it and being as proactive as you have been," she told her staff. "You guys put a strategy in place all your own. You have jumped on this already, and I'm really impressed with that."