While the the responsibility for domestic violence or sexual assault lies with the perpetrators of these crimes, we all play a role in creating a culture of respect and preventing violence.
Some bystanders may witness an actual incident of abuse or sexual violence that’s already occurring—someone at a bar who sees a drunk person being taken advantage of or someone who hears screaming coming from a neighbour’s home. In this case, being an engaged bystander may mean intervening in violence that’s already occurring.
But speaking up and interrupting an abusive situation that’s already occurring is only a small part of bystander intervention.
How You Can Be An Engaged Bystander
Leading up to every incident of abuse or sexual assault are all kinds of behaviours, words, and actions that normalise and condone violence in a community. Even actions like a sexist joke or victim-blaming remark contribute to a culture in which domestic violence and sexual assault are tolerated and not treated with the gravity and urgency that these crimes deserve.
The good news is that if we all view ourselves as engaged bystanders and learn strategies for speaking up to challenge the social norms that contribute to the culture of violence, all of us can play an active role in ending domestic violence and sexual assault. Here are some “bystander scenarios” with tips to help you to take an active role in safely preventing and interrupting situations that may lead to sexual assault and domestic violence.
Knowing when to respond
While the the responsibility for domestic violence or sexual assault lies with the perpetrators of these crimes, we all play a role in preventing violence and looking out for each other’s safety. Recognising the signs of the behaviours that may signal domestic or sexual violence or circumstances that may lead to these crimes is a critical first step to taking action to prevent violence. Once you identify when to respond, you can then identify how to respond in a way that feels appropriate and comfortable.
Follow your instincts.
If a situation feels wrong to you, it probably is. One way to decide is to ask yourself, “If I don’t act, could the situation get worse?” IF YES, then you should evaluate the best way to intervene.
Knowing How to Respond to Domestic Violence While it is Occurring
Ask yourself if it's safe to intervene
Knowing How to Respond to Potential Sexual Assault While it is Occurring
Prevention is Key
Identify why you're worried
Consider whether to intervene
Decide on a course of action
There's no "one-size-fits-all" response