VICTORIA -- Over the past year there have been several high-profile sexual assault allegation cases in Victoria’s hospitality industry, prompting an outcry for change.

Now, a non-profit organization wants to make the industry safer through education and prevention.

Good Night Out Vancouver (GNOV) is offering free sexual violence prevention training for the hospitality sector up and down Vancouver Island.

The GNOV's Safer Places Program provides tools and skills to prevent and respond to sexual violence in restaurants, pubs, and other venues where liquor is served.

Expansion of the program to Vancouver Island follows Victoria city council’s motion to prevent sexualized violence and build a culture of consent in Victoria’s hospitality community. The motion also included the possibility of mandating workplace training as a condition of liquor licensing in the city.

"We believe it should be mandated," said Stacey Forrester, the co-founder and education director for Good Night Out Vancouver. "Just like you have Serving it Right, and like you have a fire prevention plan, you should have prevention and response tools for sexual misconduct."

GNOV is a B.C.-based non-profit society that supports the hospitality, arts and nightlife sectors to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault. The community-based organization is funded though the provincial government and has trained more than 3,000 people in B.C.

The three-hour virtual sessions focus on workplace and patron safety considerations, covering the root causes of harm. Prevention, response tools, and bystander intervention are also part of the program.

"The GNOV Safer Spaces program addresses vulnerabilities at the intersection of intoxication and consent, and also community and responsibility and bystander apathy related to the spectrum of sexual violence in restaurants, bars, festivals and other places where people gather socially," said Forrester.

"Skills to create safer spaces to work and socialize in are essential in a post-COVID community," she added. "With reports from sexual assault centres across the province showing how the ongoing pandemic exacerbates inequalities, the hospitality industry now has an opportunity to build prevention into their reopening plans."

Upon completion, businesses receive a certificate and other display materials, as well as one hour of policy consultation, access to a digital resource library, and additional subsidized training modules.

"You can be proactive about these things; and just because you are talking about them in your space doesn’t mean there is a problem," said Forrester.

"If we start to think of these things from a prevention perspective, it is really a selling feature, more people will want to come to your space if they know that you’ve done the work," she said.

Applications are open now for the Safer Spaces free online program which runs from July 5 to April 2022.