February is Bystander Awareness Month:
Can you make a commitment to be active and intervene this month?
You’re at a party with friends. You see out of the corner of your eye, a guy you know to be A Player. He appears to be working on being hammered and is grinding with a girl filled with Jello shots that you don’t recognize. They are moving toward the wall where he begins to make out with her. She looks like she’s feebly trying to push him off her, in between kissing him back. What goes through your mind: ‘She’s not my friend; I’m sure someone she knows will notice.’ ‘It’s only kissing; she’ll be ok even if she’s really drunk.’ ‘If this were not ok, someone would step in.’ ‘She might have been trying to get with him all night.’ ‘It’s really not my business.’
We’ve all been there: We see something sketchy that just doesn’t feel right but isn’t crystal clear, Red Flag material. What is our responsibility? I’m here to propose that everyone on this campus is our responsibility. Of course it’s easier to react if you know the girl or guy. But aren’t we all striving for a safe community? What’s the worst that could happen if you somehow intervened? You might be a bit embarrassed if the girl or guy, say, tells you they’re dating. But honestly, most sexual assaults happen in acquaintance relationships and can happen in relationships, even marriage. It’s all about consent. Sexual violence isn’t only rape. Suppose the person didn’t feel like having her (or his) nether-regions felt up? That is also legally sexual assault.
So back to you as One Who Can Make A Difference: Is there a safe way to intervene even for a moment to allow the potential victim have a moment to think or react to an intervention? How about grabbing the girl, telling her she needs to come to the bathroom with you? What about getting two of your guy friends to distract The Player by asking him some random question? How about just asking, ‘Are you ok?’ Sometimes asking someone makes all the difference. It can mean the difference between you going out on a social limb and preventing a rape that would affect someone for the rest of their life. It could mean the girl at the party was grateful to have a break from beer breath and sweaty hands. It could mean for the Player that he gets an out from some unbelievably bad choices.
S, a junior on campus said, “A guy came up to me at this house party and asked if I was ok. Honestly I was drunk and was ready to walk home alone when my friend was staying at the party. I was not okay and he and this other girl sat me down to sober up. I was kind of mad in that moment, but so grateful the next day.”
G, a freshman on campus said, “I saw this girl on the Joey who was with another girl, holding her wrist and talking through her teeth right in her face. I thought someone else would say or do something but they didn’t. I pushed my bag between them “by accident” and said sorry, but made eye contact with what may have been the girlfriend in trouble to let her know I saw. She smiled a bit and I think she was
Make a commitment to do or say something this month and let us know how it goes so others can learn from your active citizenship and community support.
For more information on sexual assault, click here.