Be an Active Bystander
The institution provides educational programs for students, faculty, and staff to identify safe/positive options for bystander intervention.
Bystanders are the largest group of people involved in violence – they greatly outnumber both the perpetrators and the victims. Bystanders have a range of involvement in assaults. Some know that a specific assault is happening or will happen, some see an assault or potential assault in progress, and some know that assaults do happen. Regardless of how close to the assault they are, bystanders have the power stop assaults from occurring and to get help for people who have been victimized.
Take the example of the typical perpetrator of college sexual assaults. Most are men who are outwardly charming, have a lot of friends, and don't consider their actions to be wrong (Lisak, 2002). People who know this person (bystanders), and are potentially friends with this person, often do not want women they care about (sisters, friends, etc.) to date or hang around this man. When his behavior is directed at other women whom they are not close to, they often do not think it is a situation in which they need to get involved. Bystanders often know that this person’s behavior is inappropriate and potentially illegal, but may not know what they can do to make a difference.
All persons have been bystanders at some point in their lives, and all will be in situations where they are bystanders in the future. The choice, then, becomes whether individuals are going to be active bystanders who speak up and say something, or whether they will be passive bystanders who stand by and say nothing.
TCAT Dickson is not advocating that individuals risk their own safety in order to be an active bystander. Remember, there is a range of actions that are appropriate, depending on the situation. If an individual or someone else is in immediate danger, calling 911 is the best action a bystander can take; as opposed to being the bystander who stands by and does nothing, we want to create a culture of bystanders who are actively engaged in the prevention of violence. The following information is provided to students and employees regarding the power of being a bystander:
A. Power of Bystanders
Has anyone stopped a friend from going home with someone when the friend was drunk or high? Has anyone tried to stop a friend/teammate/peer from taking advantage of someone or doing something else inappropriate? Both of these actions are examples of bystanders using their power to stop violence.
What else can bystanders do to make a difference?
- Believe someone who discloses a sexual assault, abusive relationship, or experience with stalking or cyberstalking.
- Be respectful of yourself and others. Make sure any sexual act is OK with your partner if you initiate.
- Watch out for your friends and fellow students– if you see someone who looks like they are in trouble, ask if they are okay. If you see a friend doing something shady, say something.
- Speak up– if someone says something offensive, derogatory, or abusive, let them know that behavior is wrong and you don’t want to be around it. Don’t laugh at racist, sexist, homophobic jokes. Challenge your peers to be respectful.
B. Other Bystander Intervention Strategies
(Adapted from Men Can Stop Rape, 2006)
Virginia Tech (2012). Be an active bystander. Retrieved September 11, 2014.