How to become a pro-social bystander
By Paul Buckingham, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
/ Published April 10, 2009
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Prevention of sexual assault in today's culture is a complicated task. Most of the prevention comes in the form of educating on what constitutes sexual assault and how the bystander impacts sexual assault. Traditional bystander intervention training will work in many situations but is much less effective when applied to sexual assault scenarios due to sex offender targeting dynamics.
The focus of bystander intervention is on moving the passive bystander to an active bystander. There are numerous models but most have the same basic components.
5 Stages to deciding to help someone:
1. You notice the incident
2. You interpret the incident as an "emergency"
3. You have the skill set / ability to intervene
4. You assume it is your responsibility to intervene in the situation
5. You intervene
When we apply this type of training to something like drunk driving it works well. You notice someone drinking too much. You interpret their being intoxicated and driving as an emergency. Most people have seen (or heard of) someone intervene on this type of situation before. You identify that you are the one that is responsible to intervene. You go to them and offer to drive them home or call in friends / support to ensure they don't drive.
Now try and apply that to a potential sexual assault. You notice a female who is drinking too much. They are being walked outside to be taken home by a male. Is this person a friend or a predator? What do you do? Where is the line in interpreting a situation such as this as an "emergency"? The subtle aspects of interpreting a situation like this correctly are one of the reasons that more bystanders don't intervene.
Sex offenders understand these dynamics and work diligently to fit into what is considered "normal" social interactions when they target victims. The Target Hardening Self Defense program provides insight into sex offender targeting dynamics in order to increase awareness and options that lead to practical pro-social bystander responses / intervention. So what are the next steps to being an active / pro-social bystander?
1. Continue to educate yourself on common sex offender tactics
2. Go out in groups where you know the people you are with
3. Set rules of engagement before you go out
4. Have designated drivers / wing men identified before you go out
5. Review possible situations and how to get everyone home safe
6. Be situationally aware (what people are doing; pushing drinks, putting something in drinks, attempting to isolate someone, etc.)
7. Review how you would intervene on behalf of someone that you don't know (bouncer at the bar, make friends of the person aware of the situations, call the police, get the person to take a cab home, help them get home, etc.)
8. If you see someone who is upset, ask them if they need help / talk to them.
Remember, be a pro-social bystander - be a Wingman.