The power of bystander intervention

  • Published
  • By Donna Casey
  • 17th Training Wing Sexual Assault Response Program Manager
It was a typical Saturday night and I was at a club with my friends. I noticed a girl dancing with a guy known for getting ladies drunk and taking advantage of them. I made my way over to them and told her to dance with me. She gave me a dirty look, but I was persistent. I took her arm and pulled her with me.

I ended up dancing with her the rest of the night and then gave her a ride home.
Later that evening, the guy asked me why I did that. I told him I knew what he was up to and I wasn't going to let it happen.

The next day she called me crying uncontrollably. When I asked her what was wrong she told me the guy I pulled her away from ended up raping one of her friends that night. Then, she thanked me because that could have been her.

The story above was a testimony from one of the participants in a Bystander Intervention class held here earlier this year. The bystander saw this girl was in a bad situation and took action.

We need to realize everyone has the power to be a negative or positive bystander. It's important to know when someone is in a comprising situation and to be aware of when the situation could be going down the wrong path or needs to be stopped. Good bystanders can spot potentially dangerous situations or when something is happening.
Here are a few signs sexual assault victims have reported that bystanders didn't pick up on:

· A friend staring you down or giving you the eye

· A friend repeated shouting your name to come here

· A friend texting you that we need to go

· Someone trying to isolate your friend from the group

· Inappropriate comments repeatedly being made to a person

While the signs may appear trivial, most victims are not going to verbalize they need help, either because of fear or intimidation from their assailant. Victims usually give off non-verbal hints, which are sometimes hard to recognize unless you are aware of the situation.

Now that we have given you a few signs that victims use, be sure to read next week's Monitor for ways bystanders can safely and effectively intervene in these situations.