There are different forms of abuse and violence you may experience while growing up, whether as a victim, perpetrator or bystander
Are you a bystander or an upstander?
We are all bystanders, all the time. We witness events unfolding around us constantly. Sometimes we recognize events as being not ok or abusive. When this happens, we make a decision to do or say something or to simply ignore it and let it go.
A bystander has the potential to make a positive difference in a situation. A person who knows what’s happening is wrong and does something about it is known as an upstander.
Sometimes it can seem hard to be an upstander when it means standing up against what your friends or other people think or do. It is also important to consider your own safety and you need to be able to think critically about when, where and how you engage in upstanding behaviour.
When no one intervenes, the person experiencing the abuse or violence may feel that bystanders do not care or agree with what is happening. However, even if you didn’t react immediately, you can later turn to the person who is/was experiencing the abuse or violence and show them they have support and are not completely alone in the situation. It will empower the person who has experienced the abuse to hear that they are not alone, that it’s not their fault and that they should never feel ashamed or guilty.
“What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.”
– Elie Wiesel
Why don’t people intervene?
While many people may see an aggressive or offensive post, few people do anything about it. People are less likely to help if there are more people around, because everyone assumes someone else will do something about it. This is known as the bystander effect. Communication is key, as we don’t know who else is aware of what is happening or if anyone has done anything about it. If nobody does anything, we tend to do the same. Sometimes we are not sure what to do or what to say. Do you know situations like this when you don’t really know what your role can or should be?
In an abusive situation bystanders either fail to notice the abuse, do not believe it is their responsibility to do anything about it; or don’t believe they have the skills to intervene; or are afraid that they will get in trouble for intervening.
Some reasons bystanders do not intervene or respond to abuse and/or violence:
- They don’t recognize that help is needed
- They don’t know how to help
- Fear of being abused themselves, if they stand up against it
- Fear of losing their social status
- They are not friends with the victim
- Lack of knowledge about the incident
- They believe that if they tell an adult it will make it worse
Upstanders usually intervene because they:
- Are friends with the victim
- Are morally engaged and treat others with respect
- Have empathy for the victim
- Strongly believe the abuse or violence is wrong
- Know how serious or dangerous the behavior is
What would you do as a member of this group?
- I would share the nudes with my friends.
- I would reply with “ahahahaha-hah OMG”.
- I would reply with: “I agree with Oliver, she should have known that this would happen”.
- That is not ok for me, but I wouldn’t reply anything as all the others see this as ok and I don’t like to argue.
- I would ask them to delete all the pictures and tell them to speak to Julian that this is abusive & a criminal behavior.
- I would call Emily to tell her what happened and to ask her how she feels.
We always have the CHOICE to remain passive or become active!
When we’re passive others may view that we have accepted or approved of what’s happened. Sometimes, people are not only passive, but they join in with their gestures, laughter, comments, and actions that support the perpetrator. Being active is taking a stand against the abuse!
Don’t be active in supporting the abuse. Act to prevent it!
How to be active:
- Gather a group to talk to the abuser
- Stand up for the victim Question the abusive or violent behaviour
- Reach out privately to the victim to express support or concern
- Speak up and tell the abuser that their actions are not ok
- Tell a trusted adult about what is happening
- Report to the police
Not sure what to say as a bystander?
Here are some tips:
- Ask for clarification… Question the perpetrator or/and the bystander “Why are you doing that?” “Why are you saying that?” “Why do you find that funny?” “I’m not clear about what you mean by that. Maybe you could explain?”. By questioning we make others reflect on their behaviour. Always question in a non-aggressive way.
- “Give… a face to the victim…” Make it more personal by reminding the perpetrator or bystander that this could be their sister, brother, friend or girlfriend, boyfriend and how they would feel if this would happening to someone they care about.
- Don’t accuse the perpetrator or bystander… Instead of saying: “YOU are sexist and this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard”, which puts the other in a defensive position, you could say: “I don’t agree with what you are saying; I believe that nobody deserves to be treated like this”.
- Use your humor… This can be tricky, if people think they’ve been made fun of. However, if you use humor effectively, it can reduce the tension of the situation. Be careful, though, not to be too funny that you undermine the point you’re trying to make.
- Don’t accuse the perpetrator or bystander…You could just ask the group, “Am I the only one uncomfortable with this?”
- Ask for or offer help… If you witness a violent incident it may be necessary to call the police and also ask for help from people around you. Do not intervene if you are alone and you feel that it could be dangerous. You could also offer your help to the victim by talking to them, which could make them feel safe and supported. If you feel the situation is too dangerous to intervene, get help and talk to them after the incident is over.
- Make yourself visible… Let the perpetrator know that you are around and that you’re witnessing what’s going on.
- Report the abuse… When you notice abusive online behavior (hate speech, abusive comments, films or photos that are miss-used or sexist) don’t hesitate to report it. Most social networks have a place to report abuse.