Moving from Bystander Apathy to Empowerment, with a special guest post by author Lisa Burstein
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When we talk about sexual violence and rape, we must talk about what is often called The Bystander Effect. The bystander effect is the phenomenon in which a person will know that a crime is occurring, and yet do nothing to intervene on behalf of the victim. For example, when a 15-year-old girl was brutally gang raped in California, more than 20 bystanders watched as this event occurred. None of them tried to stop the assault. None of them called the police. And we saw in Steubenville how teens shared video recorded evidence of the assault and still failed to get the police involved. Part of the recent RAINN recommendations to the White House on addressing the issue of sexual violence on college campuses involves bystander education:
1. Bystander intervention education: empowering community members to act in response to acts of sexual violence. (from RAINN)
Their goal is, and everyone’s goal should be, to educate others about what sexual violence is and what it can look like so that bystanders can be empowered to step in and say no, this is not consensual. There is a brilliant scene that demonstrates this concept in THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales. The scene is set in an underground club. A teenage girl has been drinking; in fact, she is so drunk that the guys who are “making out” with her are basically holding her up. Another teenage girl, if I am remembering correctly it was her friend, looks over and sees this happen. She walks over and tells these guys they need to stop. When they assert that no, she is a willing participant, the girl says flat out she is too drunk to consent. Imagine if more of spoke up when we saw things that didn’t look quite right.
As part of the Dear Teen Me project, author Lisa Burstein shares a heartbreaking story about the time that she was raped. And she has mentioned as part of this story that she had a friend in another room that was aware of what was happening. He was a bystander who chose to do nothing. She is currently writing a book in which she talks about this experience from that friend’s point of view. Today, she is sharing a little bit about it with us.
I’ve written before about my experience being raped by my ex-boyfriend when I was seventeen years old. You can see a post about that here. But this post is about something else. This is not about me, or the boy who raped me, this is about the boy who was a bystander.
The boy who saw what was happening right in front of him and left.
— Lisa Burstein
Pretending she’s a nineteen-year-old freshman again with a new roommate and full class schedule is easy, following her new self-imposed sober and celibate rules is proving to be anything but.
Especially when she meets her shy, sweet Resident Adviser Carter.
That is until he meets the new undergrad on his floor, spunky, confident Kate.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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