Be a Courageous Bystander!
At Washington College, we encourage students to take an active role in promoting a safe, respectful, and healthy community. During your time at Washington College, you may witness or hear about situations that bother or concern you. These situations can include racist remarks, homophobic jokes, harassment, potential sexual assault, unhealthy relationship behaviors, or stalking. You can do something by being a courageous bystander.
A bystander is a person who observes a situation that is bothersome or unacceptable and is in a position to discourage or prevent an incident. A courageous bystander is someone who plays an active role in naming and stopping situations before they happen, stepping in during an incident, and speaking out against ideas and behaviors that are bothersome or dangerous.
There are several reasons why you may be afraid to get involved, including fear of it not being what you thought it was, fear for your own safety, and concern that it will cause more harm than good. If at any time you feel unsafe or are concerned for your physical wellbeing, call Public Safety at 410-778-7810 or 9-1-1.
3 Steps to Become a Courageous Bystander:
- Identify what you are witnessing may be concerning, bothersome, or even dangerous.
- Assess your capability to intervene. Are there others around you? Do you have a strategy in mind that you would use? What is your comfort level in intervening?
- Intervene by using any of the strategies listed below, or create your own! Choose a strategy that is conducive to your own strengths and style.
Bystander Intervention Strategies
Talk one on one with the person. Use assertive statements to communicate with them how what happened made you feel.
- Example: Last night a friend made a racist joke. Response: “Hey, you may not have meant any offense when you said that joke last night, but I don’t feel comfortable with that kind of humor, and people may have been offended.”
- Example: Your friend just made inappropriate comments about how a girl from down the hall dressed last night. Response: “I feel concerned when you call ______ (name) a slut because she has a right to wear whatever she wants.”
Bring It Home
Connect the issue to someone or something they care about.
- Example: Someone at a party calls another party goer a homophobic slur. Response: “I hope no one ever talks to you like that”
- Example: Your group of friends is talking about someone who reported they were sexually assaulted. One person states that she shouldn’t have been drinking so much and if she didn’t she wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted. Response: “How would you feel if someone said that about your girlfriend if she was sexually assaulted?”
Sometimes, it may be more appropriate to bring attention away from what is going on. This is helpful when you don’t feel comfortable being direct, or if you think this approach would work best.
- Example: You see someone pulling a clearly intoxicated female up the stairs towards a bedroom, and you’re pretty sure she would not be okay with that. Response: (to the person leading the girl up the stairs) “Hey! Someone is towing your car! You may want to go check that out!” or go to the girl being pulled up the stairs and say “You’re friends are looking for you and want to take you home. Let’s go find them.”
Chances are, you are not the only one who feels uncomfortable with what is going on. The bystander effect demonstrates that when there are a lot of people around, it is more unlikely people will step in. However, when one person joins, others tend to step in.
Example: At a social gathering, you see a couple arguing and almost getting physical with each other. Response: Grab a friend or two and separate the couple. Note: if you feel unsafe, call 9-1-1.
If you don’t feel safe, contact Public Safety. You can also use the Live Safe App to report anonymously.
Use humor with care. If you are a naturally witty person, this might work well with your style. However, try not to be so humorous that you end up making light of your reaction or mocking the person.
You have the power to be a hero in someone else’s life by taking action when you see something that is harmful to our community. You can be a courageous bystander anywhere, in any situation, and on any platform (yes, even YikYak!).