Bystander Exercises


A promising approach to violence against women is Bystander Intervention Programs where the target audience as seen as potential allies to end violence against women by taking positive bystander actions.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has bystander intervention resources, including scenarios, exercises, and campaigns from across the country. NSVRC's 2011 SAAM campaign includes It's Time..., which includes bystander intervention resources and scenarios.

The Mentors in Violence Prevention program has excellent exercises on bystander intervention--the materials are copyrighted but most of the folks on this list can come up with their own scenarios. Generally, offer a brief paragraph description of a scene that would be common in a campus setting: frat party, hanging out in a common area where folks "people watch" (and sexually harass others), and so on.

Example Bystander Exercise:
Create the scene so that it's from the POV of the reader.
You are at a date function at XYZ fraternity. Everyone seems to be having a good time until you see a friend talking to someone in a way that concerns you. Your friend is holding this person by the wrist and they seem to be pulling away. Your friend won't let go. The person is laughing, but it appears to be out of nervousness rather than enjoyment. Although you can't hear what's being said, you think that your friend may be trying to push them into hooking up. You can see that both people are pretty drunk. What can you do?

MVP adds in what you, the witness, might be thinking.

At this point, ask the audience, what are your options here? Let them brainstorm. Have your own list handy. Be ready to redirect comments about "I'd punch his lights out" into non-violent interventions.

What's nice about this is that people learn that they actually have the tools to intervene, but they are not sure it's OK or if there will be negative repercussions. This workshop gives them permission to step up, and helps them see that they may actually share the same feelings as others, that they aren't alone in their concerns.