Stop It! program in development to halt sexual violence
TORONTO — A first-of-its-kind training program is in development to prevent sexual violence and harassment within the hospitality industry.
“Collectively our two organizations have a big footprint in the province of Ontario. Our reach is quite substantial in our ability to reach owners and operators,” said Victoria Behune, OTEC president and chief executive officer.
“We’re going to end up with a very dynamic and innovative training program that hasn’t existed before in the industry.”
Although in the early stages of development, the program is expected to provide two online learning modules, case studies on successful industry practices, a manager’s tool kit and an awareness building campaign.
The program’s content will be assembled based on input from numerous stakeholders in the hospitality industry to help shape the curriculum.
“It’s written by the industry for the industry,” said Fatima Finnegan, the director of corporate marketing and business development for the ORHMA.
Currently advisory groups and task forces from the hospitality industry are in the organization phase.
“They will provide insight and perspective and feedback on the direction we’re taking with content development,” Behune said. “We’re looking at modules that will be directed to all frontline staff and managers.”
The program aims to explain what to do in the event of an act of violence or harassment between staff, between a customer and staff or between two customers.
“We’re going to be able to equip frontline teams as well as managers with an understanding of what may be occurring in front of them and potentially what they could or should do,” Behune said. “This is not intended to make everybody heroes, it’s to create awareness of potential scenarios they might see.”
Finnegan explained the program’s goal is to eliminate the concern or uncertainty surrounding how to handle violence or harassment.
“Most employees and supervisors are led by their fear of not knowing what to do,” Finnegan said.
Stop It! is one of six programs in Ontario to recently receive funding through the provincial government’s Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment. The funding was provided to develop and train up to 25,000 hospitality workers within three years. However, the online nature of the program will allow Stop IT! to exceed the expected number of workers to complete the training.
Stop It! is expected to launch in the fall of 2017 and ORHMA members are welcoming the notion of the program with open arms, Finnegan said.
“I was overwhelmed. We knew it was needed, but we didn’t know how much it was needed. There’s sense of relief in the industry,” she said.
“We’re speaking to independent operators as well as corporate chains that are looking forward to it.”