Behind The Turntable, An Unexpected Resource For Assault Prevention

Feb 22, 2018

Bloomington, Indiana has no shortage of night clubs. A classic college town, on any day of the week, bar-goers can begin a crawl in the late afternoon and hit a dozen sticky dance floors by midnight.

However, the alcohol-drenched atmosphere can sometimes lead to unwanted or even dangerous behavior. In a recent survey, 35 percent of undergraduate women at Indiana University reported being victims of some form of sexual harassment, and alcohol or drug use was reported as a factor in the majority of sexual misconduct incidents.

One person uniquely suited to addressing dangerous situations? The person behind the turntables.

A group of local DJs is starting a conversation about how they can help prevent and stop sexual violence. The Bloomington DJ Alliance is working with the domestic violence shelter Middle Way House and Indiana University Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy to host several sexual assault bystander intervention trainings.

While the events are open to everyone, they’re specifically geared toward performers.

The latest session happened Wednesday night at the Bluebird — a low-ceilinged venue known for hosting rootsy indie acts and ‘90s throwback nights.

Vincent Holloway is a co-founder of the Bloomington DJ Alliance. He said DJs are in a unique position to intervene if they witness sexual violence.

For one thing, they’re oftentimes looking down at a crowd.

“Part of what we’re supposed to do is be able to read a crowd so we know what type of music to play, so it lends itself to be able when you look out into a crowd and [see] things that may or may not be problematic situations,” Holloway said.

The trainings cover everything from the definitions of sexual assault to the best way to react when witnessing those situations. The sessions end with role-playing activities, which help walk people through different strategies for intervening.

Because each training takes place at a different local bar, it gives participants the opportunity to walk through challenges with specific venues.

Middle Way House and IU also hand out cards DJs can keep on hand that have information about local resources for those who’ve experienced sexual violence.

While the training sessions have some information specific to performers, the strategies can be applied to many different situations.

Prevention and Programs Coordinator at Middle Way House Sam Harrell says it’s important to first know how to recognize sexual violence, then decide how you would feel comfortable intervening.

“Are you a confrontational person?” Harrell explained. “Would you prefer to do a silly distraction? Would you prefer to get somebody else to do it who’s more capable or has more authority?”

Troy Michael is a local DJ and event promoter who attended this week’s training. He said it gave him a better idea of how he might address any inappropriate behavior he sees while playing gigs.

“When you play two or three times a week, I know I’m going to see things that are going to need to be dealt with, so I honestly just wanted to know a few tools to help myself with that,” Michael said.

The next bystander intervention training will be in April.

This story originally appeared on WTIU News.