The Asheville Brewers Alliance has entered into a collaborative effort with Our VOICE, an Asheville-based nonprofit advocacy group that provides crisis intervention services to survivors of sexual assault and prevention education to those potentially at risk. In recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, several of the ABA’s member breweries are donating a portion of proceeds from sales of select drafts throughout April to support the ongoing efforts of Our VOICE to draw attention to the problem of drug-facilitated sexual assault, or DFSA.
Bars and breweries can represent high-risk venues for exposure to DFSA, due not only to the potential for drinks to be surreptitiously drugged but also due to alcohol’s capacity to impair judgment and thereby limit the ability to provide affirmative sexual consent. ABA Executive Director Kendra Penland explains that establishing an open dialogue with brewery staff about the warning signs of sexual assault and the resources available to aid in prevention efforts are a necessity. Supporting Our VOICE in its efforts to facilitate such communication, she says, was a logical choice for the ABA and its member breweries.
In addition to raising funds for Our VOICE, the new partnership is intended to expand the conversation surrounding DFSA and help promote community awareness of the many possible ways to contribute to the fight against sexual violence. “For us, it was important as community leaders … to help Our VOICE get their message out in a broader way, to help the greater community understand that … anybody can help contribute to the solution,” says Penland.
“There are a lot of different ways, even if it’s just having a beer at your favorite local brewery,” she continues. “You don’t have to be somebody that has a professional expertise in dealing with survivors of domestic or sexual violence; you can do things that you’re already doing every day, and they can make a difference.”
As a part of their collaboration with Our VOICE, many of ABA’s member breweries have also participated in the Bar Outreach Program, a curriculum developed by the nonprofit to educate bar, tasting room and brewery staff on indicators of potential sexual assault and effective bystander intervention strategies. Each Monday in March, Our VOICE representatives traveled to breweries in Asheville and neighboring communities to lead classes that were attended by brewery staff from across Western North Carolina. By hosting classes at breweries beyond the confines of Asheville and inviting staff from regional breweries to attend, the ABA and Our VOICE sought to engage with the greatest possible number of interested parties. According to Penland, “We had a good number of breweries participate, and some are choosing to continue training with Our VOICE and doing more specific, detailed training at their breweries with their full staff.”
On the ABA’s willingness to openly engage in the struggle against sexual assault, Penland adds, “Knowing how community-oriented our breweries are … I knew that they would be really into it. This presented a unique opportunity to turn up the volume on an issue that’s really critical and really important, one that isn’t talked about enough.”
Thirteen breweries with a total of 17 locations are participating in efforts to support Our VOICE. Those who would like to contribute to Our VOICE in its mission to provide support to survivors of sexual assault and to educate the Asheville community on available resources are encouraged to stop by one of the following breweries this month: Oyster House Brewing Co., Pisgah Brewing Co., Burial Beer Co., Catawba Brewing Co. (both South Slope and Biltmore Village locations), French Broad Brewing Co., Highland Brewing Co., Hi-Wire Brewing (both South Slope and Big Top locations), Thirsty Monk (all three locations), Noble Cider, Urban Orchard Cider, Bold Rock Hard Cider, Basic Brewery (Hendersonville), Sanctuary Brewing Co. (Hendersonville).