In the news: According to various reports, including an article published by The Charlotte Observer on Feb. 17, a woman was allegedly kidnapped at knife point and raped in Rock Hill, South Carolina. While she was being assaulted, bystanders stood by and watched.
Last month, The New York Times reported that four teens took turns raping an 18-year-old woman in Brooklyn at gunpoint. The young woman was with her father but was ordered to leave. In this case, it was unclear whether or not bystanders were present but it took nearly 20 minutes for the father to locate police officers.
For the sake of simplicity: At any given time, any one of us could be a bystander. A bystander is a person sitting on the sidelines (e.g., an onlooker, witness, etc.); that person observes or hears a violent act, sexual assault, bullying, etc., but they are not directly involved in the act.
If you find yourself in the role of a bystander and you’re not sure how or when to respond, at the very least, consider doing these three things:
1) Become familiar with the reasons why some people don’t get involved. One such reason is fear-the fear of being harmed as a result of getting involved or “telling.” Another is what psychologists and similar professions call diffusion of responsibility. For more on diffusion of responsibility, click here.
2) Recognize that there are typically two choices to make in the moment: Do something or do nothing.
3) Learn ways to safely intervene; learn how to do something. For bystander intervention strategies, research and more visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s (NSVRC’s) page on “Bystander Intervention: Online Learning Opportunities.”
- YouTube Video: Green Dots and Stalking, Dating Violence & Sexual Assault (University of Notre Dame, Student Affairs)