Bye, Bye, Bystander! It’s on Us

The following guest post comes to us via Kate Thomas, community sexuality educator for Planned Parenthood Arizona. Kate has her master’s degree in public health from the University of Arizona and a passion for ensuring that people of all ages have access to the information, resources, and support they need to be sexually healthy.

it is on usIn October, the It’s on Us campaign launched a PSA about stopping sexual assault. In it, a guy at a party gets up to help when a girl who has been drinking is being harassed and grabbed by a male party-goer. The voiceover (provided by the amazing Jon Hamm) says, “This isn’t a PSA about a sexual assault. It’s about being the guy who stops it.”

You may have heard a lot about “bystander interventions” in the media coverage about how to prevent sexual assault. But not everyone knows what this term means. A bystander is someone who just stands by as something happens. They see something bad is happening, but do nothing to stop it. However, “bystander interventions” encourage individuals to intervene in situations instead of standing idly by.

Most of the time, it’s easy to intervene and prevent sexual assault. But not everyone takes that intervention in the best way. You could be told to back off, get called mean names, or even be threatened. That’s why it’s important to have others help you intervene if it isn’t safe to intervene on your own.

I have a lot of personal experience with bystander interventions.  Because of it, I may not have been the most popular girl at a few parties I went to during and after college. When my friends had too much to drink, I wouldn’t let them leave with anyone who wasn’t a known friend with the sole intention of making sure she got home safe. The guys who were denied my intoxicated friend said I was jealous, ugly, a cock-block, stupid, you get the idea … One guy even shoved me away as he tried to hoist my friend over his shoulder. In this instance, I immediately asked for help, and I took great joy watching the security guard throw that dude out of the bar. I was always proud to intervene and make sure that my friends got home safely — something that mattered way more to me than being popular and “cool” at parties.

Tips from It’s on Us:

  • Talk to your friends openly and honestly about sexual assault.
  • Don’t just be a bystander. If you see something, intervene in any way you can.
  • Trust your gut. If something looks like it could be a bad situation, it probably is.
  • Be direct. Ask someone who looks like they may need help if they’re OK.
  • Get someone to help if you see something. Enlist a friend, RA, host, or bartender to help step in.
  • Keep an eye on someone who has had too much to drink.
  • If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
  • Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.

Preventing sexual assault is up to all of us.

If you see something, will you intervene?