Have you ever seen that show, “What Would You Do?” in which people witness strangers doing questionable things? Those witnessing the seemingly odd, offensive or illegal behavior either ignore it or become involved to alter the situation. The people who take action are called active bystanders.
A bystander is anyone who witnesses a situation. Some bystanders choose not to get involved for many reasons, including not seeing a situation as a problem or believing that it is not their responsibly or that someone else will step in to help. Sometimes we don’t even recognize that a situation is troublesome or worth getting involved. If someone does see a harmful situation, and does choose to act in any way to try and stop it or lessen the consequences for the victim, that person is being an active bystander.
As active bystanders, it is important to intervene not only in situations where there is imminent harm, but also in situations we may see as being less serious – witnessing street harassment, hearing a racist joke or someone mentioning that a rape victim “deserved it.” If we can intervene in these “less serious” offenses, we can set the tone that disrespectful and violent behavior is not tolerated in our community.
Here are a few scenarios where bystanders may choose to intervene. You see an obviously drunk woman at a party being led upstairs by a man (who presumably wants to rape her), or maybe you see a couple fighting and one of them gets physically violent with their partner. These serious scenarios give us strong emotions, and people often want to get involved in some way – maybe by confronting the behavior, creating a distraction, or calling the police. These are examples of bystander intervention— when someone witnesses a situation and decides to intervene — and it is one of the greatest tools we can use to help end sexual and dating/domestic violence.
If you have questions about bystander intervention, please contact Brandon Pendleton, Primary Prevention Coordinator. He gets to talk about cool topics like this with kids and adults alike. Request a presentation or series of classes for your group today.