Campus Safety: Bystander Intervention

BY LORI KLEIN
For the UAS Whalesong
September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM). Together, we work to build a safe and healthy campus community all year long, but we begin raising  awareness as we open up the academic year. Many of us are new to this environment and new to each other. This provides us with opportunity to establish routines and set expectations for safe interactions and responsible behaviors.
How safe is our campus community? You can always check out our crime statistics online or review our Annual Security Report (ASR). Our numbers for crimes reported in any given year is pretty low. But those numbers are only as accurate as the reports we receive. Nationally, and we should assume locally as well, certain crimes go unreported.
High risk drinking, illegal drug use, prescription drug abuse, sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence, hate crimes, harassment, bullying – these behaviors  impact the safety of campus. We all have the power to intervene and put an end to destructive behaviors. It simply takes a commitment to being an active part of a safe and healthy campus community.
Think for a moment about a time when you witnessed something that made you uncomfortable. A family member told a racist or homophobic joke. A friend was in a dating relationship with a controlling partner. You saw a stranger blatantly litter or damage a piece of property. You read an online post where someone is clearly being bullied. You were a bystander. We are all bystanders, all the time. And we all have the power to intervene when something makes us uncomfortable.
Research (and practice) tells us that being a bystander is a vulnerable thing. Should I act? How should I act? What if I don’t know anyone in the situation? What if the person I’m thinking of confronting is someone very close to me? No matter what, intervening is hard. But it can be done safely, and here’s how:
1.    Know your resources.
You don’t have to be the person to intervene. In fact, your own personal safety should always be your number one consideration. Alert a campus authority to what’s going on and have them help. Share your concerns with a residence life staff member, tell your faculty member, contact a counselor or an advisor. You are not alone when it comes to making campus safety a priority.
2.    Set expectations and norms.
As you settle into your environments (housing, classrooms, small group activities, clubs, intramurals) you can be a part of setting clear, positive, safe behavioral expectations and norms.
3.    Practice intervening.
There will be low risk moments when you can confront safely. Raising your voice to say, “hey –that’s not okay” when you do feel safe and supported is a good way to practice.
4.    Be selective.
Does this new friend you’ve made share your values? Will there be anyone you know at that party tomorrow night?  Who you spend time with and how you spend your time are choices. Be patient with this process, resist the pressure to make to put yourself in situations that makes you nervous with people you don’t know or trust. Make sure you know that the people surrounding you have got your back.
If you see something or hear something that makes you worried for your safety or the safety of others, do something. Working together, we can all keep UAS a safe and vibrant campus community.

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