The Guts to Create a World We Want to Live In

Dear Engaged Bystander: In this blog, I invited Jennifer Rauhouse of Peer Solutions to talk about her work to engage bystanders in sexual violence prevention.

Joan: Can you tell me about your approach to bystander intervention:
Jennifer: To really have an impact, we have learned why and how to move beyond individual level bystander interventions. We believe that we all must shift away from putting the responsibility on the person harmed to prevent their own assault. We need to empower communities to be a part of the solution while holding those that harm accountable for their actions.

Joan: I am intrigued in what you have learned about HOW to engage people:
Jennifer: One important strategy we use at Peer Solutions is to use the words victimization, perpetration and bystander-intervention as verbs rather than nouns. This approach focuses on the behaviors we want to change while avoiding labels, stereotypes, myths and blame. When used as verbs, victimization and perpetration also mean the same thing. The action we want to encourage is to place full accountability on the person harming. Community level activities can then be focused on learning why individuals victimize as well as understanding and working to prevent the perceived norms that perpetuate the culture of harm. When the "Bystander Intervention" concept is used as a verb, we are able to empower everyone to be part of the solution.

Joan: Have you developed a specific program that focusing on engaging the community in taking on responsibility?
Jennifer: When we begin, our STAND & SERVE members are activated to "build the world they want to live in" as a safe bystander strategy. We find it helpful to begin with that positive vision rather than focus on the individual skill building surrounding the infinite possibilities about what they "should" do if they see/hear of an individual planning to sexually assault another. We have learned this strategy provides the best guarantee that our participants, who do witness a potentially dangerous situation, no matter where they are or what it is, when they perceive it to be safe, they will most definitely SPEAK UP and seek help.

Joan: How do you bring this positive world view into reality?
Jennifer: STAND & SERVE activities include weekly lunch meetings at local high schools, weekly after school meetings at community centers for elementary-post secondary level students and monthly STAND & SERVE Coalition meetings. In January of 2011, the STAND & SERVE Coalition launched THE GUTS TO BE GOOD (G2BG). Through G2BG we work towards creating a world where all humans are safe and are treated equally and with respect. G2BG promotes five simple acts of kindness.

1. The guts to be RESPECTFUL,
2. The guts to be COURTEOUS,
3. The guts to SPEAK UP,
4. The guts to be HONEST and
5. The guts to LEND A HAND.

We believe it takes everyone to end sexual violence. We are all Peers, We are all the Solution. We would like to thank Carol Hensell at ADHS guiding and supporting our bystander approach for the past ten years.

Click here for more information about the STAND & SERVE Coalition and their programs. Although their website is under-construction, but sure to check back in with them soon.