Becoming an active bystander is not just a choice; it's a declaration of our commitment to empathy, fairness, and humanity. It's a powerful acknowledgment that silence in the face of wrongdoing is never acceptable, and that our actions have the potential to create a world where compassion and intervention triumph over indifference and apathy.
When we choose to intervene, we send a clear message to the wrongdoer that their actions are not acceptable. By consistently reinforcing such messages within our community, we can redefine the limits of what society considers tolerable, ultimately stopping problematic behavior.
Developing the ability to recognize when someone is in distress and understanding how to intervene safely is a crucial skill. Safe intervention can include a variety of actions, such as giving a disapproving look, redirecting someone's attention, avoid laughing at inappropriate jokes, engaging in non-confrontational conversations with friends about their behavior, and supporting friends who have faced troubling situations. In some cases, seeking help from professionals, friends, or law enforcement may also be necessary.
How to be an Active Bystander:
At times, we encounter situations that simply don't sit well with us. It could involve comments made by a friend that strike you as inappropriate or witnessing harassment at a social gathering or club.
Being an active bystander involves acknowledging when someone's behavior becomes inappropriate or threatening and take action. If you're uncomfortable with directly intervening, consider reaching out to a friend or authority figure for help.
Studies have shown that bystander intervention can effectively deter sexual assault before it occurs, as bystanders are pivotal in preventing, discouraging, and intervening in situations with the potential for violence.
Before stepping in, try the ABC approach:
Assess for safety: If you notice someone in distress, think about whether you can help them safely. Remember that your own safety should always come first, so don't put yourself at risk.
Be in a group: It is advisable to address behavior or intervene in a group setting as it provides safety. However, if this is not possible, reporting the situation to individuals who have the authority to take action is a viable option.
Care for the victim: Strike up a conversation with the person you think might need help and show genuine concern by asking how they're doing.
How You Can Intervene Safely:
To ensure safe intervention, keep in mind the five key actions: direct, distract, delegate, delay, and document.
To address harmful behavior, you can either confront the person involved and ask them to stop or check in with the potential victim to make sure they are okay. If possible, try to approach the situation as a group effort. It's important to remain polite and not escalate the situation. Stay calm and explain why the behavior was wrong, focusing on specific details without exaggerating.
Intercede by initiating a conversation with the wrongdoer, providing an opportunity for the potential target to distance themselves or for friends to step in. Alternatively, devise a reason to help the victim exit the situation safely, such as telling them you need to talk to them or suggesting they take a phone call. In addition, consider diverting or redirecting the situation to diffuse any tension.
If you're struggling to delegate because of embarrassment or shyness, or if you don't feel comfortable speaking up, don't hesitate to reach out to someone for help. Trustworthy establishments have a strong commitment to preventing harassment and their staff will promptly address any issues that arise.
In case there are immediate risks involved, such as the possibility of violence or being outnumbered, it is advisable to disengage and depart from the situation. After the situation has calmed down, it is important to check on the well-being of the potential victim or report the incident when it is safe to do so. Always remember, there is no time limit for taking action.
As a bystander, documenting incidents is crucial in addressing sexual misconduct. It helps preserve evidence, support victims, prevent future incidents, hold perpetrators accountable, and raise awareness about the issue. By taking this essential step, we can promote a safer and more respectful environment for everyone.
Ensuring your safety should always be your top priority. Never put yourself in harm's way and only take action if it can be done without jeopardizing your own well-being.