Be More Than a Bystander

Last month members of the BC Lions visited the high schools in the valley to deliver an important message that we all should hear. It’s called “Be More than a Bystander” and it provides young people with the tools to stand up against violence against women and girls. Why? According to statistics, every year in BC there are over 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women – almost all of them are committed by men. With that said, we know that the vast majority of men do not use violence and care deeply about the wellbeing of their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, partners and friends. Yet few men view violence against women as “their” issue. If you are one of those people who care about the women in your life and you want to help, it can be daunting to know where to start. The Be More Than a Bystander approach starts small, knowing that violence against women starts with normalizing demeaning and disrespectful behaviours such as making sexist jokes or comments, using intimidation and cat calling. These behaviours objectify women. Once a woman or girl is seen as an object, rather than a person, it is easier in the mind of an abuser to hurt her. The goal of the approach is to change the way we see objectifying attitudes and behaviours as completely unacceptable. So how can you Be More Than A Bystander? You can start with these tips:

Nonverbal

  • Refuse to join in when derogatory, degrading, abusive and violent attitudes or behaviours are being displayed.
  • Register your lack of approval for such attitudes or behaviours by leaving the individual or group who are perpetrating them. Staying silent while others act and behave inappropriately actually condones what they are doing; leaving shows that you don’t agree with it and are not willing to participate and act as an audience.
  • Offer your presence. If you see that a woman is being targeted, simply stand near to her so that she and the harasser/abuser know that she is not alone. He may be less likely to continue or escalate the violence knowing that there are witnesses.
  • Give control to the woman who is the target of the violence by speaking directly to her, ask “Is he bothering you?” or “Are you okay?” and ask “Is there any way I can help?” This takes power away from the perpetrator. If the woman says that she would like your help, do what you can to be of assistance. This could mean referring her to a professional. You can check in with the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre at 250-423-4687 to see what services are available in the Elk Valley. If she expresses that she is not in need of your help, respect this and move on.
  • Take action if there is a threat of immediate danger by calling the police and/or security.

Verbal

  • Distraction as intervention: If you witness a woman being harassed/abused, ask the perpetrator for the time, or clear your throat while standing near him, this will momentarily break his focus from the target of his harassment.
  • Vocalize your support as intervention: If a woman alerts you that she has been harassed/abused in a crowd, call out in support. “Hey man, leave her alone” or “I don’t like how you are treating her, stop it”.
  • If you know them, directly reference the behaviour that you are concerned about but do not judge them as a human being. Try to avoid validating any excuses or justifications for the abuse. There is no excuse or justification for violence against women. The purpose of your intervention is to help this individual acknowledge that their actions/behaviour/attitude/words are not acceptable and get the help they need to ensure it is not repeated, not to justify the past.

These tips are brought to you by the Ending Violence Association of BC. If you want to learn more about the program, watch the Lions’ PSAs or to find out about the other programs they offer you can visit their website at: endingviolence.org.