Contributed by Stephanie Locke


Do you ever wish you could do more to prevent sexual violence in your community? Simply speaking up or stepping in can positively impact others around you, and it can make a world of difference.

Being a prosocial bystander means that you are safely intervening when you notice or suspect that something isn’t right. Prosocial bystanders contribute to the outcome of a situation in a positive way. Whether it’s a glaringly obvious incident of sexual assault or a more subtle statement that plays into rape culture, bystanders can have an impact in reducing sexual violence. We need to work together to change the dialogue that surrounds sexual violence. When an event occurs, bystanders have the power to create progressive change. A lack of intervention, even in the smallest way, can perpetuate rape culture and encourage sexual violence. This article discusses four creative ideas that you can use to become a more prosocial, proactive bystander:

  1. The tampon trick

Imagine you’re at a party and you notice something’s off. There’s a couple upstairs and the girl looks pretty uncomfortable; the guy is grabbing her by the arm and pulling her toward a bedroom. What can you do to intervene?

A non-threatening way to be a bystander in a situation like this is to ask for a tampon. How many of us have actually had to do this?! You might approach the couple, ask the female for a menstrual product, and insist that she give it to you in the privacy of the bathroom. When she’s away from the perpetrator you can safely ask her if she is alright and how you can help.

  1. Lay down the law

You’re in a group chat online when one of your buddies offers to send a topless photo of their ex. What can you do to intervene?

You know that revenge porn is wrong, and you can bet that the person in the photo didn’t consent to it being shared with anyone except the person they sent it to. You could mention that you recently saw an article about Bill C-13, and remind your buddy that it’s illegal to share people’s pornographic images without their consent. You could even share the article or a link to the Canadian Criminal Code in the chat. If you know some of your other friends in the group understand the laws around consent, you could privately message them and ask them to back you up in the chat. Sometimes intervening with others can have a stronger impact.

  1. #Tagit

Simply overhearing lewd and sexist remarks can be enough to get your blood boiling. Imagine then, that the perp chalks it up to just being “locker room talk”. What can you do to intervene?

Besides it being offensive, you’re aware of how these kinds of calloused and hostile attitudes toward women create an environment that normalizes sexual violence and makes sex offenders feel more confident in acting out their crimes. You can contribute to the broader conversation by turning to social media and standing up for what you know is right. Intervene from a safe distance by sharing your story or adding to the trending tags to get your message out to a larger audience:

  1. Call in the pros

You’re at your favourite club when you notice a guy aggressively putting his hands up the skirt of a girl on the dance floor. The girl doesn’t look like she’s into it, in fact looks pretty out of it. You have a feeling something’s wrong, but you are alone and don’t feel comfortable stepping in. What can you do to intervene?

Being a prosocial bystander doesn’t always mean jumping into the middle of every sketchy situation you encounter. Sometimes it’s safer to intervene from a distance by calling in a professional bystander, such as the bouncer, the police, or campus security. The professionals are trained to intervene in potentially dangerous situations, and they have more authority to pursue consequences for perpetrators.

These are just a few ideas that you can adapt to fit into your arsenal of tools to continue fighting the patriarchy. Remember though, your safety is important in these situations too! Being a prosocial bystander also means being a safe bystander. Do you have any creative ideas to add to the list? Or, do you have a success story? Share it with us on our Facebook page.

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