Do you know that there are sometimes three types of people involved in an assault? The first two are obvious, the perpetrator and the victim. The third is the bystander. This person(s) plays an important role in the way the perpetrator responds and how he or she treats the victim. The bystander can either support the perpetrator or the victim. Unfortunately, most bystanders are scared of the perpetrator and don’t wish to get involved, so they do nothing. Even worse is when the bystander supports the perpetrator and makes he or she feel that what is being done to the victim is acceptable or even amusing. Research shows that an individual is less likely to intervene if there are other bystanders present. In emergency situations, many things prohibit bystanders from intervening:
- If no one else is acting, it is hard to go against the crowd.
- People may feel that they are risking embarrassment.
(What if I’m wrong and they don’t need help?)
- They may think there is someone else in the group more qualified to help.
- They may think that the situation does not call for help since no one else is
Are you a good or poor bystander? Your actions can make a difference in someone’s life. In some cases, sexual assault can be prevented when people take responsibility for each other and get involved when someone is at risk. When you see someone who looks like they could use assistance do you respond in a helpful or hurtful way? You don’t have to confront the perpetrator if you are concerned that you may be next. You may ask the victim to come and join you and your friends. You may report the situation to an adult or the police. Or, if you are willing and able, let the perpetrator know in a non-threatening manner that what is being done is unacceptable and it should stop. If someone doesn’t recognize trouble, do something to intervene and prevent the situation from becoming worse.
When a situation makes us uncomfortable, we may try and dismiss it as not being a problem. When in doubt, trust your gut! You have the responsibility to intervene. When you fail to act, you condone the bad behavior.