The only person responsible for committing sexual assault is a perpetrator, but all of us have the ability to look out for each other’s safety. Whether it’s giving someone a safe ride home from a party or directly confronting a person who is engaging in inappropriate behavior, each of us can make a difference in ending sexual harassment on campus and in our communities.
BYU encourages all members of the campus community to be engaged bystanders—persons who intervene in a positive way before, during, or after a situation or event in which they see or hear behaviors that promote sexual misconduct in any of its forms. A bystander is a person who is present when an event takes place but isn’t directly involved. Bystanders might be present when sexual assault or abuse occurs—or they could witness the circumstances that lead up to these crimes. Through positive bystander intervention you can make a difference in other people’s lives.
How to Intervene: C.A.R.E.
Bystander intervention includes recognizing situations of potential harm, understanding institutional structures and cultural conditions that facilitate violence, and overcoming barriers to intervening. It's important to be aware of what's going on around you and behavior that seems out-of-place or concerning. We can all make the decision that we have a responsibility to help when we observe trouble and then choose positive and safe ways to intervene.
There is no single “right” way to intervene, and what is appropriate depends on the situation and the individuals involved. Here are four basic steps you can take to be an engaged bystander when a harmful event is occurring. All it takes is for you to C.A.R.E.!
1. Create a Distraction
Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.
- Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party is lame. Let’s try somewhere else.”
- Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about.
- Start an activity that is draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.
2. Ask Questions
Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.
- Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”
3. Refer to an Authority
Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like an RA or security guard.
- Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for someone else’s safety.
4. Enlist Others
It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.
- Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
- Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.
- Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”
HOW CAN I HELP AFTER THE FACT?
Sometimes, you may not witness the event during which harm was caused, but you can still be an engaged bystander. You can positively intervene by helping and supporting a victim. If the individual is a victim of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking (collectively, "Sexual Harassment"), remember that these behaviors are crimes and the victim is NOT at fault, nor are they responsible for another person's criminal behavior. You can:
- Listen. Be there. Communicate without judgment.
- Encourage a victim to seek medical attention immediately if the circumstances warrant it.
- Encourage the victim to seek professional help such as counseling or therapy.
- Remind the victim that they have the option of informing the police.
- Report instances of Sexual Harassment to the University Title IX Coordinator who will be able to help victims access additional resources.
You CAN make a difference. You can be the difference by being an engaged bystander. For more information about being an engaged bystander and supporting victims and survivors of Sexual Harassment visit the following:
- Addressing Sexual Misconduct-Training For All Students Positive Bystander Intervention module focuses on positive bystander intervention
- Campus and Community resources for victims
- Information for Victims who are BYU students
- RAINN.com Helping Someone You Care About
- Voices of Courage Creating a Culture of Non-violence
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO BEING AN ENGAGED BYSTANDER
Sometimes, you may witness a harmful situation occurring, but you decide not to positively intervene. Some reasons that people give for not being an engaged bystander include:
- Someone else will take care of it, help, or speak up.
- It's none of my business or it's not my responsibility.
- I am afraid of what other people might say or think about me if I do something.
- They might do something to me if I try to help the person they're harming.
- It doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
- It must be okay, because no one else is doing anything about it.
- I'm too busy, I have my own problems to take care of.
These may be legitimate concerns, but you can overcome these types of barriers by considering the following responses to the corresponding statements above:
- I can do something about this and get other people to help too.
- I want to help, because if I were in the same situation as that person, I hope someone would help me.
- I can enlist help from others or the police if I'm worried about getting hurt or someone retaliating against me.
- It is a big deal to that person who is being harmed and I can help them.
- What's going on is not okay and maybe others are thinking the same thing.
RECOGNIZE WAYS TO PREVENT HARM
When someone causes harm to someone else, it is the person causing the harm that is at fault. There are things we can do as individuals and as a community to make it less likely that we will be victimized by perpetrators. Regarding Sexual Misconduct, be sure to advise others of the following when the time is appropriate:
- Be extremely cautious when responding to personal classified ads or using social media and dating apps to meet new people. Furthermore, remain cautious if you decide to meet someone you have only connected with online or over the phone.
- Often when using social media we allow others to have access to our contact information and information about where we have been and where we currently are. Reconsider what information you make available on social media. Consider whether you would give the information to a stranger, and if not, then it is likely not safe to post the information on social media.
- If you are meeting a date for the first time, consider taking a friend with you, or at the very least tell your roommates or family members where you are going and with whom you are meeting.
- Do not accept a ride from someone you do not know including a blind date. Consider providing your own transportation to and from the date.
- Be independent and aware in social settings. Express opinions on where to go and appropriate places to meet.
- Carry your cell phone with you and keep it charged. Program emergency contact numbers into your phone if necessary. Have the most important emergency contact phone numbers memorized just in case you need to make a call and you don't have your cell phone with you.
- If you are dating or getting to know someone, remember that it takes time to build healthy relationships and to truly get to know an individual. Arrange group or double dates to give you time to get to know someone well. If you are meeting a date for the first time, consider taking a friend with you, or at the very least tell your roommates or family members where you are going and with whom you are meeting.
- Lock your residence and car doors to reduce the risk of having unwanted visitors.
- Utilize the University Safe Walk Program provided by University Police if you are uncomfortable walking alone on campus at night.
At times, there may be circumstances that make you wonder whether positively intervening will actually be the right thing to do or if it will cause trouble for you or the person you are trying to help. For example:
- You might worry that calling the police, if you hear your neighbors violently arguing or fighting next door, will get your neighbors in trouble, or
- You might worry that if you make a report to the university's Title IX Office about a friend being sexually assaulted, your friend will get in trouble if they initiated any of the sexual activity that happened right before they were assaulted, or
- You might worry because the perpetrator is someone that is highly regarded by your roommates, friends, or your ward members, and therefore, no one will believe you when you make a report
Though these circumstances may seem difficult to address, the most important thing that can be done is to get help for the victim. Reporting Sexual Harassment helps the immediate victim, may help prevent others from being victimized, and helps to end behavior and conditions that facilitate violence. Again, ignoring harmful situations and not addressing them is never the right option.