Hey SAFER blog readers! My name is Heather and I am a recent Ithaca College grad. Throughout college, I was in a local SAFER organization, and for two of the years I was even SAFER’s President. SAFER hadn’t been around Ithaca for very long, it was only two years before I entered college that Dan Wald created the group. I now live at home (temporarily!) in the D.C. Metropolitan Area and work as a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton doing Policy Analysis.
Students Active for Ending Rape only became a huge part of my life once I entered college, but it opened my eyes to so much more. Being president for Ithaca College’s SAFER made me realize how little awareness there is about rape and sexual assault on college campuses. When I would tell people what SAFER did, many asked,
“Why do we need a group to stop something that only happens once a year on campus?”
Once a year? I wish. Yes, about once a year you would hear how an unidentified man was trespassing on campus, entered a dorm room, and sexually assaulted a student. But what about all the other 364 days of the year, when it could be your boyfriend, girlfriend, bestfriend, acquaintance, or classmate? It’s a scary reality, but the more aware students are, the better we can fight against rape culture.
I believe it’s important to identify the types of behaviors or experiences associated with rape and sexual assault because it allows for an open-discussion that has never been had before on campuses. Rape is a problem, and the only way we can address it is by educating everyone, men and women, about being an active bystander, helping others, and ultimately trying to stop rape before it happens.
Active bystanders are extremely important on college campuses, because of the typical close-knit college community. An active bystander can be the way to get between a victim and an attacker, and potentially save that person from becoming a victim of interpersonal violence. Say you are at a crowded house party, and you see a girl that you don’t really know from one of your classes who is extremely drunk. She is wandering around the house, stumbling, falling and is all by herself. You then see a boy you also don’t know approach her and try to lead her upstairs. She looks confused but doesn’t seem to resist. What would you do in this situation?
Before joining SAFER, if I had seen this situation happening, I probably would not have done anything because I didn’t think I could do anything. I didn’t even think about what could happen in that situation. But in the role of an active bystander, you could be the key to preventing such a horrible act from taking place. Alcohol makes everything much more complicated, and even another drunk bystander may be able to evaluate the situation better since they are not directly involved.
There are three components to Active Bystander Intervention. They are often refered to as the ABCs: (Department of Defense, 2011)
(A) Assess for safety. Ensure that all parties are safe, and assess whether the situation requires calling authorities. When deciding to intervene, your personal safety should be the #1 priority. When in doubt, call for help.
(B) Be with others. If safe to intervene, you’re likely to have a greater influence on the parties involved when you work together with someone or several people. Your safety is increased when you stay with a group of friends who you know well.
(C) Care for the victim. Ask if the victim of the unwanted sexual advance, attention, or behavior is okay. Does he or she need medical care? Does he or she want to talk to a counselor to see about reporting the matter? Ask if someone he or she trusts can help him or her get safely home.
I believe being an active bystander is the first step in pro-actively ending rape and sexual assault on college campuses. Here are ways
you can help be an active bystander on YOUR campus:
- Talking to a friend or acquaintance to ensure he or she is doing okay
- Name or acknowledge an offense and encourage calm dialogue
- Making up an excuse to help the person get away from someone
- Use body language to show disapproval
- Calling for help/the police
- Pointing out someone’s disrespectful behavior in a safe and respectful manner to help deescalate the situation
Check out Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s website with examples and ways to be a great active bystander: http://web.mit.edu/bystanders/assessing/index.html
Now go out there an be an active bystander!!
Department of Defense. “Active Bystander.” MyDuty.Mil. Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, 2011. http://myduty.mil/index.php/prevention-sub-ab