What does it mean to be an active bystander?
A bystander is someone who is a witness to an event but is not directly involved. An ACTIVE BYSTANDER is a witness to behavior that is violent or unfair and speaks up against it. Being an active bystander means you are making a commitment to speak out against violence and make a difference.
Tools for being an active bystander: (Adapted from Alan Berkowitz)
- See violence for what it is. A lot of times, we don’t want to admit that violence is happening. We often choose to ignore the situation, look away, or call it something else. It is important to remember that no one has the right to be violent, even if two people are dating. Examples of violence are grabbing someone, hitting, pushing, yelling, or calling names.
- Violence doesn’t stop violence – use words! If someone is being abusive, threatening or trying to fight the abusive person is only going to make the situation worse. Instead, ask questions like “Is everything okay?” while looking at both people. It’s a way to interrupt the fight without causing more drama.
- Don’t silence or ignore the victim. Be sure that you don’t put all the focus on the abuser. The victim’s voice should be heard and respected. Ignoring victims makes it seem like their feelings – and voice – don’t matter.
- Learn from the situation. What could have been different? Did you respect the victim’s rights? Did you avoid violence? Talk to your peers and get their perspective on the situation.
Remember, violence doesn’t end after one action.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, or know someone who has been a victim, DoD SafeHelpline can help!
There are resources available to you 24/7 through Safe Helpline. Online help is available at https://www.safehelpline.org/, or you can call 877-995-5247 (the phone number is the same inside the U.S. or via the DSN). SafeHelpline can also provide you with referrals by text to your mobile phone. You can text your zip code, installation or base name to 55-247 (inside the U.S.) or 202-470-5546 (outside the U.S.), and Safe Helpline will text back contact information for the SARC on your installation or base.
As members of the Massachusetts National Guard, we are all Leaders and must step up and take on the role of being an Active Bystander. Recognize the signs of violence and use the tools in this article. If you have any questions about how to step up as an Active Bystander call the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator’s (SARC) office at 508-233-7530