Success stories

Former workshop participants are now working in their home churches and local communities with greater confidence and effectiveness to prevent violence against women and children from occurring in the first place. Below are some bystander intervention approaches women and men have used. Of course you should not choose a cause of action that puts you or anyone else at risk or harm. Know your own limits and ‘comfort zone’  and use your common sense. The most effective time to act may be later, not on the spot and you may want to get advice before taking steps.

We’re friends right

Rev Duku Wolare

Bring it home

 No religion – Jack Lieu

I’m a guy right, we laugh at everything; and we’re filthy and sometimes it’s just they’re filthy jokes or something and I’m just thinking to myself I should not be laughing at that. It’s like in the social circumstance when you want to save face with your friends, if you laugh at the joke you’re still in the social circle, if you argue, all your friends are going to look at you. So I usually just go “actually the reason that’s not funny, is because…”

 Distraction

Anglican – Rev Dr Hugh Kempster

“A drunk man had latched himself on to an elderly woman who was waiting outside with others to get into the vicarage. He was insistent about joining the contemplative prayer group and said “ I wanna go in to the house of God.” “Arh I said,” coming between him and the elderly woman – “ the house of God you want – well come this way my friend,” as I led him away from the group and into the Church.”

Posted by Nadeen Sidawi

Calling out the harasser – ‘She’s not interested. You need to leave her alone’

I saw a young woman, walking alone, get approached by a man with a clipboard. “Heyyy!” he said, “Do you know about …” From a few feet away, it looked like he was trying to sell her something. I don’t know exactly what it was but something inside of me just started to take an interest.

“No thanks,” the young woman said, and kept walking. At 6ft, the man stood easily head and shoulder over her. “What,” he said aggressively, “You don’t want to do this?” He became real pushy “You’d be perfect for this, you have just the right type of body.” I looked over at the woman who was trying to  get away, clearly uncomfortable, and as a pedestrian, from three feet away, I asked her:  “Do you know this man?”  “No,” she said.

“Do you want him to leave you alone?” She nodded.  She was clearly trying to ignore him to avoid a confrontation.  I stopped and looked at the man.  “She’s not interested. You need to leave her alone.” I said, firmly. At first, he ignored me. “You need to leave her alone. She said no, thank you.” I said again and loudly as I could.

“Whoa, whoa,” he said, stepping back slightly. Then he noticed my boyfriend, and looked at him, “Wait, are you all together?”  My boyfriend nodded, not speaking. I looked at the woman and said quietly, “Walk with us.” We walked together for while and she said “thanks” as we parted ways and she headed up the street.

Posted by Donella Jenkin

The fake friend

I was at a city bus stop at night when a car kept pulling up to the bus stop and the men inside the car were harassing a woman at the bus stop.  I walked over to the woman and said “Hello Mary”. The car drove away. Her name was not Mary. I did not know her.

Uniting Church – Faith Johnson

Checking in with your friend

‘One member of a culturally diverse group I teach returned to her naive country to get married. On her return she seemed withdrawn and less “bubbly” than before. I asked her privately if she was ok, and when said she was, I just let her know that she was aways welcome to have a chat if she was ever worried about anything. The next week she texted me to ask if she could talk after class. She told me her husband was hitting her and emotionally abusing her. We talked through her options and she elected to return home. I gave her my address and contact details and drove her home so that she arrived at the same time as when using public transport as she was worried her husband would query why she was late. The following week she texted to ask if she could come home with me after class. She stayed with me until she got an intervention order against her husband; supported through this process by myself and her university mentor.’

Anglican – Sister Averill Dover, St Peter’s East Melbourne

Are you ok?

I was travelling to Melbourne on a V/Line train, and a young female ticket inspector was doing her rounds.  A male passenger seated near me presented an invalid ticket, and when she explained to him why he could not use that ticket he became very aggressive and began to abuse her verbally, using lots of f… words.  Several times she said to him, “Don’t use that language to me!” but he continued to do so.  I felt very sorry for her and wanted to help but couldn’t think of any way to do so.  So I sat there, running through scenarios in my head and discarding them as I felt my intervention would only have made things worse.   None of the other passengers was doing anything either.  Then the train stopped at a station and he got out. The young woman was looking shaken, and I said to her, “That was a horrible experience for you.  I really felt for you.”  She replied that she intended to report the incident to the police; that the offender was known to the railway staff as a trouble maker, and that they knew his name and where he came from.  She said that on a previous occasion he had punched a female colleague of hers in the face. I said that if a statement from a witness would help, I would be very happy to tell the police what I had seen and heard.  She was grateful, and I gave her my name and phone number.  Then a couple of other passengers followed suit and gave their details also.  The next day I had a call from a police officer who questioned me about the incident and took down my statement over the phone.

Anglican – Des Graham, Bellarine Gateway Anglican Parish  

Calling out the harasser – ‘hey that jokes not funny’

‘It is the tradition in some predominately male clubs to conduct a “fines” session at meetings as a light hearted interlude and to raise a few dollars to cover meeting expenses such as guest  speakers. In my experience, with the use of the internet, there is now a ready supply of jokes which although adapted and levelled at male members present, often show lack of respect for women in general. Sometimes there is a deliberate pause in telling the joke until the waitress has left the room. Recently at such a club meeting, which I regularly attend, I was moved to stand up and suggest  that in this day and age we should refrain from such behaviour as it represented a lack of respect toward women which if condoned by society in general  can lead ultimately to violence of some sort.The reaction to my proposition was immediate and spirited. Some could not see where I was coming from whilst at least four of the fifteen present rose to their feet and agreed with my point of view. I am sure that others, although silent, were also supporters. Although it was never my intention to make a personal criticism of the appointed “fines” master for that occasion, but rather to make a point of principle,  this was unfortunately misconstrued. The response of person involved was that he was simply following the traditional practice and if a change was required some guidelines were necessary. To me, such guidelines are simple – “fines” should preferably be based on real circumstances,  are non-sexist and with due respect to all concerned regardless of gender. Time will tell whether any change will result but the positive note is that the subject was more  openly and passionately discussed by club members than any other issue that I can recall.’

Anglican – Rosemary McCoy, St Paul’s Anglican Church, Geelong

Make your presence felt

‘A miserably cold, wet and windy night. Driving home quite late I noticed two people having what appeared to be a very heated argument with much shouting and waving of fists.  One, a young woman, stood at her front door, the other, much taller and dressed in dark pants and a hoodie was standing quite close to her.  I decided to put my ‘bystander intervention’ plan into action so we turned around and drove back, pulling up slowly just in front of the house.  I waited a little while as the action continued at the front door, the shouting and what appeared to be abuse was not in English so I couldn’t understand what was being said.  I wound down the window and as the young woman looked over I asked her if she was ok.  She threw back her head, laughed and said “I’m fine, we’re good friends”. As she spoke the other person turned around and I could see it was another woman.I felt good having tried out my ‘bystander intervention’, no-one was upset by it and both women would have been aware of the disturbance they were making in what is normally a very quiet street’

Posted by Tessie Lightfoot 

Calling for help

‘I was out doing some last minute shopping and heard 2 men slinging off about a transgendered persons appearance. I could see he was trying not to react. The verbal abuse continued and I thought the potential for the person being punched was pretty likely so I thought about what I could do to intervene safely. I am only 5ft, so physically confronting the abusers was out of the question. When I entered the shop, I noticed a security officer at the door and  made a bee line for him and told him what was happening. The security guard intervened and asked the 2 guys to leave.  Felt useful to be able to put a stop to rotten behaviour.’

Anglican – Hugh Kempster, St Peter’s East Melbourne

Silent stare

‘I heard screams for help on the road and there were two cars, a woman and five men … I don’t understand the full details of the situation but there was a woman; she wasn’t being physically assaulted but was being verbally assaulted.  I was just about to ring the police, my physical presence seemed to calm the situation down.’ Posted by Robo Matters

Posted by Robo Mathers

Interrupting the behaviour

A few weeks ago I was at a bakery. When I got in line, a couple at a nearby table started arguing very loudly. The man was calling her from a pig to a dog and nobody did or said anything. So, I walked right over to their table. Just as I did, the guy picked up a bag that belonged to the woman and hurled it across the room.

So, she goes to pick it up. I wait there, arms crossed just looking at the guy, waiting for her to get back. I asked “are you two going to be okay?” I did this calmly, but direct and to the point, while standing my ground  as if to say “you take a swing at me mate so help me god I’ll drop you.” The guy sheepishly said “Yeah.” I said, “good,” and walked back to the line. Everyone looked relived , but they seem scared to look at me, too, for some reason. I got my food and sat at a table sort of near them, but with my back to them. I didn’t want to be too confrontational, but remind him that there were still people in the place that were noticing what was going on.