Bystander intervention – a violence prevention model for faith communities

I have fallen prey to the bystander effect – and so have you. I have sat on a crowded bus – like everyone else – while an elderly woman walked on, waiting for others sitting on the bus to give up their seat. Someone has to, and someone else will, on a bus full of people.

The bystander effect shadows even the simplest of moments.

You drive past a car accident and assume someone else has dialled 000. You enjoy long showers and don’t try to limit yourself – other people will conserve resources, and you can afford to consume in excess. You like a post on Facebook denouncing a horrifying act, but your actions end there. There’s no obligation to intervene when you’re not the sole observer right.

The bystander effect makes a routine appearance in our lives. Often times, neglecting to intervene in a potential incident doesn’t have catastrophic consequences.

There are multiple reasons you and I may not intervene. It can be anything from not thinking it’s my business or not understanding the situation, We can even talk ourselves out of thinking we understand it. There’s the fear of being an outcast, simply not knowing what to do and personal safety.

Intervention doesn’t come with a manual and that’s why 13 facilitators from culturally, religiously and linguistically diverse backgrounds are being equipped to help facilitate group discussions about safe interventions in situations that could immediately lead to violence. As well, strategies to interrupt a culture that is permissive of violence toward women.

Our goal is to reduce the incidence of gender violence in our communities by empowering people to intervene in safe and creative ways, rather than standing aside as passive bystanders.

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