Stand By Me – 4 Steps To Being an Active Bystander

By: Gabriel Malseptic

The other day I wrote about the importance of obtaining consent and how it can lead to more satisfying relationships whether it’s a Friday night hookup or long-term relationship.

Sadly, not everyone out there is gaining consent…According to the DOJ, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes. That’s right, since you started reading this article, someone has been sexually assaulted. If your jaw didn’t drop, you may want to see a doctor to get checked for TMJD.

Not only that–it’s estimated that 60% of those who are assaulted don’t report it to the police, meaning that offenders tend to face little to no jail time. Now before you take out your credit card and starting buying neat Batman accessories or Wonder Woman bangles, there is a much cheaper, albeit less dramatic way to help your friends, family members, and neighbors, from becoming statistics–become an Active Bystander.

What is an Active Bystander?

bystanderactivatedAn Active Bystander (yes, I capitalized Active Bystander, again, because they’re totally that important), recognizes when someone is exerting unwanted power over another and speaks up. A passive bystander (note: not capitalized) sees something and does nothing.

So How Do I Become an Active Bystander?

NoCapes_zps82c1bcc0There are Four Steps. For readers with a flair for dramatic heroism, you may be disappointed because being an Active Bystander is actually super simple and doesn’t even require a cape–frankly, they’re discouraged.

    1. Notice the Event: This may look like someone who:
      • has clearly had too much to drink
      • looks uncomfortable in a social interaction
      • is unconscious
      • is alone and appears isolated, or
      • is trying to avoid advances of another person
    2. Interpret it as an Emergency: Often people fail to realize one of the above scenarios as risky because they assume there’s an established relationship between the two people and/or because others are not acting on the incident.
    3. Take Responsibility: Don’t rely on other bystanders to confirm if a situation is sketchy. If you see something, take responsibility! Your “superpowers” include:
      • Checkin’ in with a friend. Make an excuse to pull a friend aside to ask if s/he is OK.
      • Distractin’ the harasser by simply asking the time or what song is playing. It’s a non-confrontational way to alert the harasser of your presence and attention.
      • Notifyin’ a bartender/host/bouncer that someone has had too much to drink.
      • Callin’ the police or campus security.
      • Explainin’–if it’s one of your friends who is doing the harassing, you can be more direct and tell them that what they’re doing isn’t cool and should stop.
    4. Act!: Remember, you’re trying to defuse a situation, not escalate it. Your friend, whether unknowingly taking advantage of someone who is unable to give consent or is at-risk of sexual assault, will be grateful and hopefully create fanfiction in your honor.

Have any stories to share when you were an Active Bystander? Any tips on other great superpowers? Let us know in “Leave a Reply” up top!