Non-consensual sex may not be something you worry too much about for yourself, but chances are decent that you've seen someone else in a situation that was - or seemed like it might be - sketchy at best. Maybe you know the kind of guy who makes it his mission to get women drunk and alone in order to take advantage of them. Maybe you've seen a friend falling for easy lines from a manipulative person because she liked them. Maybe you didn't quite know what to do, or if there was anything you could do about it.
Why Should I Get Involved?
Because getting involved helps prevent sexual assault in a culture that too often inadvertently supports it. Because a little thing you do to check in with someone else could be the big thing that saved them a lot of trauma. And because sexual assault is everyone's problem (that means both women and men).
Sexual violence occurs on a spectrum, from seemingly “harmless” catcalls directed at women on the street, to date and acquaintance rape, to gang rape at gunpoint. To the degree that we "let" the little things happen without saying anything, we tacitly support a sexually violent culture. When we don't think our speaking up counts for anything, we contribute to an environment that lets perpetrators get away with it (which they do, disturbingly often).
Think of your sister, your mom, your girlfriend, or one of your good friends in a sexually violent situation. What if someone watched or knew it was happening and did nothing to stop it? How would you feel? Do you want to be that kind of person?
Types of Bystander Situations:
- One-Track Mind: A guy is determined to get a girl in bed, no matter what it takes. All of his actions are geared toward that end. You know what he's up to.
- Sneak Attack: Someone is trying to manipulate someone else into being alone in a room so that they can take advantage of her/him. You don't think the other person realizes what's going on.
- The Blitz: You overheard a guy joking about getting a woman drunk (or drugging her) so that she wouldn't know what hit her. (Remember that alcohol is the most common date rape drug.) You're drinking alongside them.
- Party Scene: A bunch of women you know have been invited to a party where, you've heard, the guys' main objective is to get laid. You were just going to check out the band.
Getting involved doesn't have to be (and ideally shouldn't be) a big production. Small interventions can make a big difference in a questionable situation. Just distracting someone, saying something, checking in with a person can stop the momentum of something bad. And if it wasn't going that direction in the first place, it's certainly not going to have hurt to check in.
You always have more than one option as a bystander.
Even in your regular life you can help prevent sexual assault without doing a whole lot. You can:
- Speak up if someone's putting down women.
- Offer to drive your friend(s) home from a party.
- Accompany female friends to parties where the guys' objective is to get women drunk.
- Pair up with your friends at parties to keep an eye on each other.
- Remind your friends to hold their drink at all times (or constantly use a fresh one) and make sure no one slips something into it.
- Talk to a guy who manhandles women and suggest he get help.
If you're in a situation where you see something weird happening , you can:
- Distract the couple in order to diffuse the situation.
- Take one person aside and distract them.
- Offer to call a cab for one of the people.
- Track down a friend of one of the people and have them check on their friend.
- Knock on the door.
- Directly ask one of the people what's going on. (If it's a guy and a girl, it's a good idea to ask the girl away from the guy.)
- Shout something so everybody hears, like, "Hey, what are you doing? Leave her alone!" and stick around to make sure the situation has cooled down.
- Talk to the girl at some point and let her know you saw what was going on and that you're willing to help her.
- Open the door and ask if everything's cool. Interrupting an okay scene is better than standing around while a rape takes place.
Of course it can be awkward to intervene; there's always the risk of being a little embarrassed or embarrassing someone else. You might tell yourself that you're overreacting, or that it's not your business. You might also fear that you are the only one who will speak up or that you'll end up in a fight.
On the other hand, who wouldn't be willing to be a little embarrassed, knowing that someone cared enough to check on them? And chances are that there are more guys (and girls) out there than you know who feel the same.
It takes some character, sure, and some guts to be the kind of person who will intervene. But at least you've started the conversation. All it takes is one person.
From: http://www.whynotask.org. Produced by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
For more information e-mail Hotline@vsdvalliance.org. E-mail is not a secure form of communication. To ensure confidentiality please call the Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.838.8238 (V/TTY).