How Can I Help?

Bystander Intervention

We all witness or know someone who has experienced acts of sexual violence, from sexist jokes to rape. But many times we don’t speak up even when we know it’s wrong and we feel uncomfortable for the person at the receiving end. It’s usually not that people don’t care.

There can be many barriers to intervening including:

  • It’s outside of your comfort zone
  • You fear retaliation or loss of friendship with the person involved
  • You don’t want to be marked out or be seen as a cock block
  • You don’t know what to do or say
  • You believe that someone else will help
  • You worry that you could make things worse
  • You think it’s not your problem
  • You don’t believe it’s your business to intervene
  • You don’t feel safe

There can also be a high social cost for intervening. But the benefits far outweigh the costs. Some of the things that people who have stepped up to the plate have said include:

  • It was the right thing to do
  • Someone helped me once
  • The person involved was someone I care about
  • I was just doing what I would want someone else to do for me
  • I knew he was drunk and I wanted to make sure that no one got hurt
  • I have a girlfriend and a little sister – I’d want someone to help them if they needed it
  • It makes me uncomfortable to hear my buddies talking like that about women
  • I want to make this campus safe for everyone
  • I felt good knowing that I’d made a difference

It’s not just women who care about sexual violence. Men can be powerful allies who have a crucial role to play in preventing sexual violence and promoting healthy masculinity. They do and should care because:

  • Men are victims too – 10-20% of men will experience sexual assault in their lifetime
  • Men know survivors – intimate partners, friends, and family members
  • Sexual violence limits men and makes it seem like all men are perpetrators
  • Nearly all violence is perpetrated by men, and they are our friends and roommates. So men are in the best position to challenge each other and hold each other accountable.