The bystander model is an innovative approach to the widespread problem of sexual violence prevention across campuses and other communities (e.g., Banyard, Plante, & Moynihan, 2004; Slaby & Stringham, 1994; Katz 1994; DeKeseredy, Schwartz, & Alvi, 2000; Foubert, 2000; Foubert & Marriott, 1997; Berkowitz, 2002). This approach involves teaching bystanders how to intervene in situations that involve sexual violence.
While still involving programming that trains groups of individuals, this model takes next steps toward a broader community approach to prevention:
- The bystander model gives all community members a specific role, which they can identify with and adopt in preventing the community problem of sexual violence.
- This role includes interrupting situations that could lead to assault before it happens or during an incident, speaking out against social norms that support sexual violence, and having skills to be an effective and supportive ally to survivors.
The bystander model is based on studies that point to the role of community norms as a significant cause of sexual violence particularly in communities like college campuses (Schwartz & DeKeseredy, 1997, 2000). While the responsibility for sexual violence perpetration properly rests with the offenders, research has identified risk factors and social contexts that may increase the likelihood of sexual victimization and facilitate or hinder support of survivors.
Request Bystander Intervention Training (one-session prevention program)
Participants in this group attend one ninety-minute prevention program which includes:
- A team of one male and one female peer leaders conduct the group training.
- Program content covers basic information about prevalence, causes, and consequences of sexual violence.
- Program content also includes discussions of how community members can play important prevention roles as bystanders observing risky situations before and during acts of sexual violence (e.g., observing a very intoxicated person being lead into a bedroom at a party by a group of people) and afterward if approached by a friend who discloses that they have been a victim.
- Active learning exercises include role playing, used to help participants think about how they might intervene safely and be a supportive ally to survivors.
- Particular emphasis is placed on participants’ personal safety and on using resources such as campus police and rape crisis center resources.
- Participants are asked to generate a “bystander plan” and to sign a pledge (both of which they are asked to keep) that they would be active, prosocial bystanders in the community.