Bystanders play a critical role in the prevention of sexual and relationship violence. They are often the largest group of people involved - outnumbering both the perpetrators and the victims/survivors. Bystanders can have a range of involvement in assaults. A person or persons may be aware that a specific assault is happening or will happen, they may see an assault or potential assault in progress, or they may have knowledge that an assault has already occurred. Regardless of how close to the incident they are, bystanders have the power stop assaults and to get help for people who have been victimized.
Everyone has been or will be in situations where they are bystanders. While you may be aware that certain behaviors are inappropriate and potentially illegal, you may not always know what you can do to make a difference. It is a matter of individual and collective choice whether you are going to be active bystanders who speak up and say something, or whether you will opt to be passive bystanders who stand by and say nothing.
Being an active bystander does not require that you risk your own safety or the well being of others. Our goal is to aid in the prevention of violence without causing further threat, harm, or damage. Remember, there is a range of actions that are appropriate, depending on the situation. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, calling 911 is the best action a bystander can take.
We want to promote a culture of community accountability at Trinity Valley Community College where bystanders are actively engaged in the prevention of violence, realizing that we are all responsible for each other in addition to ourselves.
The five steps to helping
1. Notice that something is happening
2. Interpret the meaning of the event
3. Take responsibility for providing help
4. Know how to help
5. Provide help
Before an individual can decide to intervene in an emergency, they must take several steps. If the person is to intervene they must first notice the event, they must interpret the situation as an emergency, and they must decide that it is their personal responsibility to act. At each of these preliminary steps, the bystander to an emergency can remove themselves from the decision process and thus fail to help. They can fail to notice the event, fail to interpret the event as an emergency, or can fail to assume the responsibility to take action.
Who are Bystanders?
You are a potential bystander. Everyone is a potential bystander. This includes your friends, your classmates, your family, RA’s, acquaintances, on-lookers, random passers-by, and pretty much everyone else in the world.
There are different types of bystanders. A bystander may choose to ignore the situation (i.e. passive bystanders), engage in the situation in a way that stops it (i.e. active bystanders), or engage in the situation in a way that exacerbates the situation (i.e. participants)
What is Bystander Intervention?
Bystander intervention, or being an active bystander, is part of being a member of the TVCC community. We all have an important role in preventing sexual violence when we are confronted with problematic situations. Being an active bystander can include:
· Speaking out against statements, attitudes, or behavior that may perpetuate a culture endorsing violence as
acceptable or inevitable
· Naming and stopping situations that could lead to a sexual assault
· Stepping in during a high-risk incident, whether by disruption, distraction, speaking up, or even calling for
help forothers can step in.
· Supporting and believing others when they feel uncomfortable or hurt
· Helping others respond to problematic situations
The goals of bystander intervention are manifold. While bystanders must ultimately be equipped with skills to be effective and supportive allies before a sexual assault ever takes place, bystanders must also be taught when to intervene and why, as a member of the TVCC community, we all have a responsibility to derail and interrupt violence and violence-condoning attitudes on campus. Research shows that bystander intervention is a promising practice to help prevent the national public health problem of sexual assault on college campuses.
A typical bystander…
Goes through 5 stages when determining whether or not to act:
1. Notice the situation
2. Interpret the situation as requiring intervention
3. Assume responsibility for intervening
4. Know how to effectively help/Decide how best to help
5. Actually intervene in the situation
Being an active bystander does not mean that you should risk your personal safety, or that you need to become a vigilante. There are a range of actions that are appropriate, depending on you and the risky situation at hand. Remember, if you are ever worried for the immediate safety of yourself or others, you can decide to leave the situation and seek outside help – that’s still bystander intervention!
The Ideal Bystander…
· Approaches everyone as a friend.
· Is honest and direct whenever possible.
· Tries to de-escalate the situation before it is a crisis.
· Avoids using violence as a means of intervention.
· Refrains from antagonizing or accusatory actions when possible.
· Asks for help from others present when needed
· Knows when to call for professional assistance