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U-WIRE: Educational bar napkins seek to prevent sexual violence in Fla.

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday October 22, 2002

GAINESVILLE, Fla. The Florida Department of Health hopes Gainesville bar-hoppers will take a second glance at their napkins.

For the past few weeks, several local bar owners have replaced their regular drink napkins with napkins bearing the message, "Watch Your Drink. Stay safe from club drugs."

The words "Do not open," are on the side of the napkin, and inside are the hotline number and Web site address for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.

"We want people to stay safe, and then we're sending a message to criminals," said Nancy Linehan, administrator for the Florida Department of Health Sexual Violence Prevention Program.

While the program aims to educate college students, representatives from several bars said that patrons don't seem to absorb the message.

"I didn't really think anyone took them seriously," said Shannon Harrell, a bartender at The Copper Monkey, one of six participating bars. "Guys wondered if they were the only ones who got them."

Harrell, an SFCC sophomore, said she thought coasters might be more effective in spreading the message.

Alligator Rocks owner Dennis Laughlin said, "I didn't get much feedback, but hopefully it put a dot in their minds."

Laughlin, who said he received a few thousand napkins, distributed them all within the first four weeks of the program.

College students probably are aware that drinking from a punch bowl has risks, but others may not realize that leaving a drink alone at a bar is equally dangerous, Linehan said.

"Over the years, people have learned to be real suspicious of the communal punch bowl," she continued.

"But, $2, $4 or $5 [for a drink] is not worth getting hurt over. Weigh the cost against the fact that if you don't know where that drink has been or who has had access, you can wake up a victim."

This fall, more than 320,000 napkins were distributed in Jacksonville.

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