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All students have a vital role in the effort to build safer and socially comfortable campuses. Research shows that only a small number of men on campus are responsible for most of the sexual assaults. “The truth is many more men would prefer to interrupt this stuff than buy into it,” says Lee Scriggins, an expert in bystander intervention education at the University of ColoradoBoulder. Much of the time, it’s not even about preventing a potential assault. “We ask students to act when they see anyone looking even a bit uncomfortable. By making bystander intervention low-key and routine, we create a safety net that also supports mutuality and respect. Everyone has a role to play,” says Melanie Boyd, assistant dean of student affairs at Yale University, Connecticut.
Feeling empowered to take effective action
“For men, feeling that you have to solve the whole situation, and that confrontation will result in a fight, is a barrier,” says Scriggins. Bystander intervention efforts emphasize a range of direct and indirect ways to help make sure everyone is comfortable. These include resisting other people’s derogatory comments, which signal a potentially toxic environment, and creating openings for someone to extract themselves from a situation if they want to…
What you can achieve:
- Active bystanders can reduce harm and establish a safer community.
- Active bystanders shift the blame away from victims and foster a sense of community responsibility.
- Active bystanders model interventions for others, who may apply similar strategies in the future.
Ways to disrupt potentially harmful situations
A classmate makes a sexually suggestive comment to another student
- Direct response: “Whoa! That’s awkward.”
- Indirect response: “That was awkward and a bit much.”
At a party, a guy seems to be paying way too much attention to another student
- Direct response: “What are you, desperate? Knock it off.”
- Indirect response: “Hey, I’ve got someone you need to meet.”
Walking across campus with friends, a student suggests you all follow someone
- Direct response: “What’s your point? No, that’s stupid.”
- Indirect response: “Let’s get out of here and catch the event in the quad.”
Drunk and Aggressive
A drunk guy announces he’s going to get with a girl that night
- Direct response: “I dare you to get with someone who wants to get with you.”
- Indirect response: “Keep tabs on the situation through the night to see if he’s blowing smoke or if sex is his goal no matter what.”
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