It’s still April for another week so let’s talk about a THIRD way we can help fight sexual violence where we live and work and play!
This might seem like an oversimplification. After all, we think, if I actually SAW someone being assaulted or harassed, I would do something about it. Right?
Studies show that this is not always the case. Bystander effect is essentially what happens when a large group of people witnesses someone in trouble and does nothing about it because a) no one else is or b) they assume someone else is.
Most of us, I think, would probably try to say or do something if we saw a woman attacked on the street. Hopefully, that’s a no-brainer. But what about those more ambiguous situations? What about the girl at the party who seems like she’s had a little too much to drink to be leaving with that guy? What about the loud shouting coming from a couple arguing in the parking lot outside of your apartment? And what about that woman at work who looks incredibly uncomfortable when the guys in the next cubicle start loudly comparing personal sexual experiences? Would we do something then? Or would we say, “That’s not my business.” “I shouldn’t get involved.” “If she’s uncomfortable, she’ll say so.”
And defense isn’t just about defending OTHERS, it’s also about defending ourselves.
Here are some easy ways to defend the vulnerable:
- If dirty jokes or sexually aggressive language is being thrown around the office, say something. Don’t wait for someone else to speak up. If you felt uncomfortable, even for a second, chances are someone else did, too.
- If you’re concerned about someone’s personal safety, do something. If you’re not sure it’s safe to intervene directly, don’t step in yourself. Call security, call 9-1-1, ask another passerby for help. I’ve heard campus police use the expression: “When in doubt, call us out.” Pay attention to your instincts.
- Learn self-defense. Take a class (they’re often offered through community centers, gyms, martial arts studios, and college campuses). The key word, again, is defense. This isn’t about taking on predators in dangerous situations. It’s about knowing how to use your own body (your greatest weapon) to protect yourself and others in peril. Be aware of your surroundings. Lock your car doors. Walk with purpose and confidence.
-Demand that people treat your personal space with respect and care – if someone gets a little too close (ex: at the bus stop, waiting in line, on the sidewalk, or at a party), tell them to give you room. Don’t let the fear of offending someone keep you from feeling safe – a predator will test your boundaries by encroaching on your personal space and a good person won’t be offended if you ask them to give you room.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read and empower yourselves as men and women to make an impact on YOUR world! Stay tuned for Part 4 of Ending Sexual Violence in Your Community!