What is Bystander Intervention?
Bystander Intervention is a social science model that predicts that most people are unlikely to help others in certain situations. A bystander is anyone who observes an emergency or a situation that looks like someone could use some help. They must then decide if they are comfortable stepping in and offering assistance.
Research has found that people tend to struggle with whether helping out is their responsibility and one of the major obstacles to intervention is something called diffusion of responsibility — which means that if several people are present, an individual is much less likely to step up and help out because he/she believes someone else will. Other major reasons that bystanders fail to intervene are that the situation is too ambiguous, that the bystander is worried about misjudging the situation and thus will be embarrassed by intervening, or that the bystander believes the victim is in some way responsible for the situation and is thus, getting what they deserve.
Bystander Intervention programs teach people to overcome their resistance to checking in and helping out. These programs have been found to be very helpful on college campuses to thwart sexual assault, abusive alcohol consumption, dorm damage, and even concerns about suicide, depression and eating disorders.
Have you ever stopped a friend from going home with someone when your friend was really drunk or high? Have you ever gotten a friend who is very drunk to Urgent Care or taken care of them for the night because you knew they were too drunk to be left alone? These are examples of your being a bystander using your power to stop violence and/or potential injury or death from alcohol poisoning.
Reducing the Risk of Acquaintance “Date” Rape:
- When dating someone for the first time, seriously consider doing so in a group situation or meeting them at a public place. This will allow you to assess your date’s behavior in a relatively safe environment.
- Watch for inclinations that your date may be a controlling or dominating person who may try to control your behavior. A person who plans all activities and makes all decisions during a date may also be inclined to dominate in a private setting.
- If the person drives and pays for all expenses, they may think they’re justified in using force to get “what they paid for.” If you cover some of the expenses, they may be less inclined to use this rationale to justify acting in a sexually coercive manner.
- Avoid using alcohol or other drugs when you definitely do not wish to be sexually intimate with your date. Consumption of alcohol and/or other drugs, by both victim and perpetrator, is commonly associated with acquaintance rape. Drug intoxication can both diminish your capacity to escape from an assault and reduce your date’s reluctance to engage in assaultive behavior.
- Avoid behavior that may be interpreted as “teasing.” Clearly state what you do and do not wish to do in regard to sexual contact. Such direct communication can markedly reduce a persons inclinations to force unwanted sexual activity or to “feel led on.”
- If, despite direct communication about your intentions, your date behaves in a sexually coercive manner, you may use a “strategy of escalating forcefulness – direct refusal, vehement verbal refusal, and, if necessary, physical force.” In one study, the response rated by men as the most likely to get men to stop unwanted advances was the woman vehemently saying, “This is rape and I’m calling the cops.” If verbal protests are ineffective, reinforce your refusal with physical force such as pushing, slapping, biting, kicking, or clawing your assailant.
Break the Cycle: Empowering Youth to End Domestic Violence
What to Do in a Risky Situation:
- Stay calm and think out what your options are and how safe it would be to resist.
- Say “NO” strongly. Do not smile. Do not act polite or friendly.
- Say something like “STOP IT! THIS IS RAPE!
- If the attacker is unarmed, fight back physically. Attack the most vulnerable parts of the body. Shout FIRE and escape as soon as possible.
- If the attacker is armed, try to talk him out of continuing the assault or try passive resistance such as pretending to faint, vomit, or urinate.
Nine Ways to Stay Safe:
- Always walk briskly. Look alert and confident. Avoid carrying objects requiring the use of both arms.
- Stay away from isolated areas, day or night.
- Never walk alone when it is dark.
- If you are being followed, get away fast, change directions, and walk/run to a crowded area.
- Keep all doors to your car and residence locked at all times.
- Before you drive home, call your family, a friend, or a roommate so they will expect you and are aware if you are excessively late.
- Encourage group activities in the early stages of a relationship.
- Take a self-defense course.