Group Helps Athens-Area Residents Stand Up Against Harassment, Assaults

As manager of Jackie O’s Taproom in Athens, Stacey Kamphaus sometimes has to deal with large, unruly men.

But the 31-year-old said she knows what to do in such situations, thanks to training from the People’s Justice League, a community organization that strives to support safe streets, campuses and establishments in southeastern Ohio.

“I’m kind of smaller,” Kamphaus said. “Just to know how to handle and talk to larger males in situations where they can be threatening or overt and not take you seriously. ... People’s Justice League taught me how to talk to those guys, how to de-escalate.”

The Athens resident went through “active bystander intervention training” that teaches people how to support survivors of harassment and assault, deal with perpetrators and make others feel safe and respected. The People’s Justice League provides the two-hour training to restaurant and bar workers in Athens and surrounding areas.

Kamphaus was trained in 2016 and had her staff of six people get the training last month. For some, it was a refresher of an earlier training; for new employees, it was an introductory lesson.

Seven other Athens-area businesses have hosted the training and signed on to be part of the Active Bystander Coalition, meaning they have pledged to take allegations of sexual assault seriously and kick people out of their establishments if necessary, said Sarah Fick, the league’s co-founder and director.

The training is free and is just one way in which the league tries to help the community. It also educates high school students on healthy relationships and hosts workshops on a variety of topics, including self-defense.

The group also has a website and mobile app — called PJL Reporter — that victims of sexual harassment, assault and hate crimes can anonymously, and, hopefully, safely, use to tell their stories and get support from other local residents. The app and website allow users to look at a map of southeastern Ohio to see where incidents have been reported and read victim accounts of what happened. There’s also a place where someone can report an incident.

The app features more than 80 reports, ranging from accusations of sexual harassment, rape and assault to the locations of racist and sexist signs.

One woman, for example, reported witnessing a man physically assaulting a woman outside an uptown business, another person posted a photo of a sexist message on a campus-area house, and another woman said she was groped at a downtown bar.

A Nelsonville woman, who talked to The Dispatch under the condition of anonymity because she fears retaliation, said she used the app to warn others in the community about a man who was accused of sexual assault.

“It’s important for vulnerable people to be able to share information that can protect people without having to be subject to vengeance, victimization, public shaming, whatever it is,” she said. “Women are standing up and realizing we can use information to protect ourselves and each other.”

Read the entire story featuring grantee People's Justice League.