We still don’t know everything that happened when Olivia Ambrose was abducted after she left Hennessy’s, a bar and live music venue near Faneuil Hall, last month. But what we do know, without a doubt, is this: What happened to her was preventable. There were countless opportunities for someone—a bartender, someone working security, someone who saw her outside, another partier, a friend—to say, Hey, are you ok? Or, Can I help you?
But no one did. I won’t pretend to know why, exactly, no one checked on her between the bar and the walk to the State Street T stop, but I can make a pretty good guess: No one wanted to stick their nose where it didn’t belong.
As humans, as Americans, perhaps most stringently as Bostonians, we are conditioned to leave well enough alone, mind our own business. To not stir the pot. Many of us squirm at the thought of asking a stranger for directions, let alone asking a drunk stranger if they’re comfortable in their surroundings.
This has to stop. Feeling awkward is just not a good excuse for bystander apathy or lack of intervention. It is every single person’s responsibility as a decent human being to check on the well-being of people around you. If you see something, say something, man.
But determining when and how to intervene as a bystander, a witness to a possibly dangerous scenario, can be tough—Does she know him? Is he just kidding? Can I say something if I don’t work here? What the hell do I say? Which is why on Monday, Feb 25, OFFSITE, a local cocktail events/catering/education organization, is bringing Green Dot Bystander Intervention Training to the local restaurant industry.
“Harassment and sexual violence can happen in any space, it’s not something that’s unique to the service industry by any means, but we deal with cultivating spaces,” Nick Korn, OFFSITE co-founder said.
“We’re trying to not just create a good time but a safe space.”
Green Dot Training takes place across the country and across all industries (one of its largest clients is the US Navy), bringing skilled facilitators into the workplace or classroom to lead participants through a series of admittedly difficult conversations and roleplay scenarios.
“This is going to be a well-run program that allows people to talk about important things in a safe and frank way and see the other members of the community as potential collaborators and making changes when needed and talking about identifying situations that are toxic or not safe,” Korn said.
The training, which has been specifically tailored to folks working in bars and restaurants, will take place at Variety Bar in Bow Market in Somerville.
“We care a lot about making spaces safe,” Andrea Pentabona, general manager of Variety Bar, said. “It was important to all of us to train our staff to be open and communicative around these issues. It’s a personal responsibility, not just following the law but a social responsibility.”
Pentabona, who headed up last year’s local V-Day events, expects the room to be full.
“This is hugely important for our industry,” Pentabona said. “I’m passionate about this topic and I know my staff and my friends in the bartending community are passionate about it. This is a chance for us to come together and go about being active bystanders as a united front.”
Predatory behavior is only ever the fault of one person—the predator. Still, a lot of people failed Olivia Ambrose the night she went missing.
Again, if you see something, say something.
And if you work in the restaurant industry, come to Variety Bar on Monday afternoon and sharpen the tools you have for saying that something.
Haley is an AAN Award-winning columnist for DigBoston and Mel magazine and has contributed to publications including the Boston Globe and helped found Homicide Watch Boston. She has spearheaded and led several Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism investigations including a landmark multipart series about the racialized history of liquor licensing in Massachusetts, and for three years wrote the column Terms of Service about restaurant industry issues from the perspective of workers.