How to Be a Proactive Bystander on Your Campus

What Does Proactive Bystander Mean?

Posted by Shelley Kilpatrick on 3 May 2016 |

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What Does It Mean to be a Proactive Bystander?

proactive bystandersStopping sexual violence on campus is everyone’s responsibility. That’s why it’s so important for each and every person to be a proactive bystander. But what does that mean?

According to PACT5, a grassroots organization using documentaries to help stop campus sexual assault, “bystanders are involved, but are not the target.”

Unfortunately, what can happen in many situations is that bystanders stay back and don’t do anything to intervene and stop what’s happening. This is referred to as the bystander effect.

And it’s understandable because there are very real concerns bystanders have when they see a situation isn’t right. “Will anyone support me?” “Do I have all the information?” But you can’t let these concerns hold you back because being a proactive bystander means stepping up and taking action.

However, one very important thing to keep in mind is that bystanders should ALWAYS be safe when they intervene. For example, if you are a witness to someone being sexually assaulted, it might not be safe for you physically intervene. In this case, the safe thing to do would be to remain out of sight and call emergency responders.

Additionally, people on campus can be proactive bystanders in many different situations. It’s not restricted to a physical altercation. At it’s heart, what being a proactive bystander means is taking action when you see, think or feel that something’s not right.

To help you in your journey, we’ve put together some examples of how you can be a proactive bystander. Also, don’t forget to download our poster, Anatomy of a Proactive Bystander, to keep these responses on hand!

Bystander Intervention Scenarios and Responses

Educates Themselves and Others

Proactive bystanders educate themselves and others about interpersonal violence and gender inequality. A proactive bystander doesn’t need to have all the answers, but they strive to be educated and help teach others what they’ve learned.

For example, they understand myths that surround sexual assault and sexual violence, such as men can’t be victims, and they make sure to dispel these myths when they hear them. They also don’t make snap judgments about situations; instead they prefer to gather all the information to make an educated decision.

Provides a Listening Ear

Proactive bystanders provide options and a listening ear to someone who has experienced sexual violence. Being proactive isn’t only limited to the time before an assault. It encompasses every moment. And in fact is just as important after something has happened.

There is actually a lot you can do for someone that has been sexually assaulted. We discuss it here, but some examples include:

  • Taking the person to see a doctor
  • Sitting with them so they are not alone
  • Helping them file a complaint
  • Giving them a ride somewhere

Changes the Conversation

Proactive bystanders change the subject away from sexist, rape-supportive or homophobic conversation. Language and what we say really makes a difference in what we believe and how we approach situations.

Derogatory language for women and LGBTQIA individuals is a great example. The more people refuse to use those hurtful words, the better we are because we are treating people with respect and stamping out discriminatory and harassing behavior.

So when you hear a joke or a comment about someone’s appearance or gender identity, point it out and make people realize that it’s not okay. And if you can’t do that, then do your best to change the subject and prevent the conversation from going any further, because chances are, you’re not the only one that’s uncomfortable.

Key Takeaways

Being a proactive bystander means taking action against sexual violence and discrimination, on campus and anywhere else you come across it. And it doesn’t stop at intervening the moment someone is in trouble.

It’s something you do all the time and in many different ways. You are part of the campus community – it’s important to understand the campus’ programs and resources. And, most importantly, it’s something you do safely.

Are you ready to be a proactive bystander? If so, download our poster and show it off to educate others.

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