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Don’t Be a Bystander to Sexual Assault

Don’t Be a Bystander to Sexual AssaultBeing a bystander to dating violence can be challenging. Knowing what to say, to whom, and when to say it are difficult questions to answer. The most important thing to remember is that not doing something could place someone in even more danger. Speak up if you see violence in progress.

On March 13, 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese was sexually assaulted and killed outside of her apartment complex in New York City. She cried out for help while the attacker was beating and raping her. A number of her neighbors stood watching from their windows, neglecting to call the police because they all assumed that someone else would. This phenomenon became known as the “bystander effect.” Because of the bystander effect, no one called the police or intervened; Kitty Genovese died.

Most people don’t want to get involved in someone else’s relationship for fear of being “nosey,” a “busy body,” or a “home wrecker.” Standing up for someone too afraid or intoxicated to stand up for himself or herself is a brave thing to do and can help save a life.

If you witness any sort of teen dating violence, here are some helpful tips on how to intervene and de-escalate the situation:

Give control to the victim.
Ask the person directly, “Is he bothering you?” “Are you okay?” “Is there anything I can do to help?” By speaking to the victim and not the perpetrator, you are giving the victim control over the situation and the opportunity to speak up and ask for help.
Call for help.
If there is a threat of violence, call the police right away. Don’t wait for someone else to make the call. People often think that if more than one person knows something is going on, someone else will call for help. It’s better to flood the police with calls than not to make a call at all.
Offer an out.
If you can see a situation is starting to escalate, offer the victim an escape route.
Ask him or her for help on something or to go with you to the bathroom. Try to give the victim an opportunity to get to a safe space or seek help.

And remember, silence can sound like acceptance.

Not speaking out against dating violence can sound like you accept it. If you hear someone say something that is threatening or offensive to their partner, speak up. A simple, “That’s not a nice thing to say,” can make all the difference. It announces your disapproval, lets the perpetrator know someone else is watching, and gives the victim support.

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