Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bringing in the Bystander

First of all, thank you to all of the new student organizations that have become part of the CUNY-Wide Sexual Assault Policy Movement. In addition Students for a Greater Cuny thanks Kristen Bowes, Associate General Counsel for The City University of New York, for coming out to Bringing in the Bystander Training at Hunter College.

Therefore, for this particular blog, I would like to focus on the Bystander Training. A Bystander Training is a revolutionary model. Unlike most training programs, which either focus on training women to physically train themselves for self-defense or telling men not to become rapists, this model engages the community or those who are bystanders. The training really drove the point home that SEXUAL ASSAULT DOES NOT EXIST IN A VACCUM. Sexual assault is a crime that impacts the whole community in numerous ways. We have to remember that rapists and sex offenders look for an environment, an opportunity and a culture where they can get away with their criminal act. Therefore if a community takes away the environment, the opportunity and a culture, then rapists and sex offenders have less of a chance to commit the crime or get away with the crime.

The bystander can become an active participant and take steps to prevent a sexual assault. The intervention can occur in numerous ways-a call to the police, speaking up when hate-language is used, bringing attention to the scene, helping the victim after the assault, listening to them or numerous things that bystanders can do to in either preventing the sexual assault or helping in preventing the revictimization of the victim. Imagine if your community didn't believe that something terrible had happened to you? How about if they blamed you and never your perpetrator?

Here I would like to speak just as a concerned student on certain concerns I had on the training. I think engaging the bystander is an exceptional piece. However, there are little bits and pieces that may need readjustment to fit NYC commuter campuses for they serve hundreds of thousands of students who identify with different communities; this weighs heavily on a victim's willingness to report and for an effective intervention from the community to occur. The dialogue on sexual assault is silenced more in certain communities. The training as it is presents the regular male=perpetrator and female=victim model; while in reporting statistics this may be the case, it should not be taken as that males are not assaulted. If we are to engage the bystander, why not educate them to look out for sexual assault on males? WE SHOULD NOT PRESENT SEXUAL ASSAULT AS A CRIME THAT AFFECTS WOMEN PRIMARILY. THE COMMUNITY MUST BE ENGAGED BECUASE NO ONE IS FREE FROM BEING SEXUALLY ASSAULTED!
Additionally specific things in the training may need to be changed to engage certain religious student groups and cultural groups. In order for such trainings to be successful, we need to be respectful of not imposing a Western based model on a community and being thoughful on engagin individuals on such a heavy but important topic. However I love the focus on the bystander!!!


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