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How to be a better bystander

Posted on 04.26.2017
A lecture on April 20 aimed to teach students about how to become a successful bystander to sexual assault. Photo by Mariah Coleman

A lecture on April 20 aimed to teach students about how to become a successful bystander to sexual assault. Photo by Jake Shaw

The Student Counseling Center held a Secrets of Success workshop as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, focusing on its “Step UP!” model on Thursday, April 20. Director of the Student Counseling Center Kelly Miller and Advanced Trainee of the Student Counseling Center Melissa Puthran both led the workshop.

The event began with a snowball activity in which everyone in the room was given a square sheet of paper to write about a time when they saw someone who needed help and their reason why they did not stop to help. Then they threw the paper across the room to someone else to read the anonymous paper out loud.

After a paper was read Miller and Puthran provided reasons why those situations happen and explained why it is good to go out of the way to help.

“It’s better to be wrong and still make an attempt to help someone than not make the attempt and realize you were right,” Puthran said. “It’s always better to make the attempt.  In the snowball activity, people said that they had a feeling that it was not their place, a feeling that it was that person’s fault or that person’s issue.”

One of the things that the lecture focused on was the “Step UP!” model. The first couple of steps include noticing the event by being aware and alert and interpreting the situation as a problem by not minimizing the situation. The third step is to assume personal responsibility by engaging the situation. Another step is to know how to help by knowing the resources that are around you, such as the counseling center, RAs, staff members and even friends. The final and most important step is to Step UP! In that step you ask yourself, if not you, then who?

According to Miller, part of the “Step UP!” model is to try to help people around campus, with the intention of making it a safer place for everyone.

“We know that people want to help,” Miller said. “It’s just that there are these barriers, and some of those are that ‘I don’t have the skills’ or ‘I don’t know what to do’ or ‘I’m afraid.’  So the point that we wanted to get across in this model is that here are some things that you can do, here are some ways that you can step up. So we’re teaching skills on how to be a caring campus.”

Another model that was brought up was the “SEE” model.  The steps in that model include safe responding and not putting yourself in harm’s way. It also includes being early and intervening while it is still safe, before the problem increases, and being effective and deciding a course of action that best helps everyone.

Miller also talked about why people do not always help and said that just because you do not help does not make you a bad person.

“When you’re making that decision about whether you should step in or not, think about if you would want someone to step in for you or your sibling,” Miller said. “There are a lot of barriers towards stepping in, like personal experiences, psychological reasonings, if there is a group of people and no one else is responding, fear and lack of skills at times.  None of them are because they [the bystanders] are bad people and don’t want to stand up.”

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