Media release: Are you looking at me? Canadian research into preventing bar violence

Burnet Institute

12 April, 2011

Leading Canadian researcher, Professor Kathryn Graham is presenting the findings of Toronto’s Safer Bars Program for preventing aggression and violence in bars at a special seminar at the Burnet Institute today.

Professor Graham, a Senior Scientist and Head of the Social and Community Interventions and Policy Research Group at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Ontario, Canada, is in Melbourne to attend the 37th annual meeting of the Kettil Bruun Society for Social and Epidemiological Research on Alcohol.

Reducing aggression in licensed premises underpinned the Safer Bars Program. As part of the evaluation of this project, Professor Graham collected data that included 1000 nights of observation in large capacity (300+) bars and clubs across Toronto in which over 1000 incidents of aggression were observed.

“Our findings indicate that social identity motives are key to aggression escalation and severity,” Professor Graham said.

“An important direction for prevention of bar violence is to reduce environmental features of the drinking setting that provoke identity motives.

“As an example, door staff and crowd controllers need to adopt strategies that do not threaten the social identity of patrons, especially male patrons.”

Sexual aggression and aggression relating to sexual/romantic overtures accounted for a third of all incidents observed. And while many involved minor aggression, some escalated to some of the most severe ones observed.

“Almost all incidents of sexual aggression were initiated by males toward females and about a third of these began with an overture that the initiator already knew, or probably knew, was unwanted by the target,” Professor Graham observed.

“In about half of incidents, the initial overture was not aggressive, but the initiator became aggressive.”

_Dr Graham’s current research focuses on the role of alcohol in aggressive behaviour both in licensed premises and between intimate partners; the relation between alcohol use, depression and violence; and international comparisons of negative consequences from alcohol consumption. She led the development and evaluation of Safer Bars, a program to reduce aggression in licensed premises. _

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