From Bystander to Upstander

There has probably been a time in all of our lives where we’ve thought, “Should I intervene?” Being a bystander in any given victim-perpetrator situation can be scary; and most of the time the “bystander effect” (in which we choose not to intervene because we assume others around us will) develops out of our fear; we’re scared of retaliation, being the only one to help, or even being the next victim. People are also afraid of coming off as “uptight” in a situation that might not be a real victim-perpetrator scenario. This is true for all types of confrontations, including sexual assault.

Especially in incidents of sexual assault, the bystander effect needs to be overcome. The best way to do this is through bystander training, which creates “upstanders”, or those who aren’t afraid to stand up for others. Bystander training allows trainees to see rape not as a personal problem in which third parties should “butt out of”, but as a community problem, in which the act of rape is an attack on the people they care about. Bystander training gives trainees the strength, knowledge, courage, tactics and the sense of community they need to feel they are strong enough to intervene.

Direct confrontation and intervention is a key component to being a good upstander. Bystander training gives people the tools to stand up in situations they sense aren’t right. Whether it be a night out on the town or on a college campus, a good upstander will recognize and be aware of both their fellow community members and their surroundings; they will sense when it is time to intervene.

But there are other facets that go into being a good upstander throughout your community. Through training, members learn what rape culture is and how it can be challenged. Bystander training teaches us the importance of never blaming the victim. A woman should never be told she was ‘asking for it’ because of her clothes or her choices; bystander training teaches us to blame the perpetrator, not the victim. Another thing we learn from training is how to stand up even in the situations where a direct victim isn’t present. Rape is never an act that should be joked about, and training gives us the tools to speak up against these offensive jokes when we hear them. It allows us to challenge the mindset of not only the person(s) who told the joke, but any others who might have been listening in. In doing so, we make others around us more aware of rape culture.

If you’re interested in learning more about the realities of sexual assault, attend a FREE training with YWCA and Steve Thompson on Friday, April 17 at 9:00 a.m. Steve has conducted trainings on sexual assault and stalking throughout the country. If you want to learn more about him, visit: This training will address the most common types of sexual predators. Threat assessment, profiles, and crime characteristics will be analyzed from a practical perspective. Behavior patterns, investigation strategies, interviewing survivors, and survivor trauma relating to information gathering will be addressed. This training is a great opportunity for attorneys, law enforcement, social service agencies, probation officers, medical personnel, or any other professionals who work with victims of sexual assault and stalking. This event is FREE, but you must register at

Hello! My name is Miranda and I am a public relations/marketing intern at YWCA McLean County.I am junior at Illinois State University majoring in public relations and graduating in May 2016. I’m excited to see where life will take me thereafter! 


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