Interview with and Stories from Lauren Sogor

Dear Engaged Bystander: I had the chance to talk with Lauren Sogor who showed, very concretely how it is often the little things that cause the shifts we need in our society. Here is what she had to say:

Can you describe a time when you were an engaged bystander and/or you saw someone change from passive to active bystander? For me, being an engaged bystander is about doing what feels right in each situation. Sometimes, it is as simple as "hey, I noticed you dropped something." For me, it seems intuitive to do things like that. But in our highly individualistic culture, it's radical to get people to take the time out of their day to even engage with their world in those simple ways.

Do you have any words of advice for other bystanders?
At some level, what we want is a small shift in how people think and act. But I try not to fool myself that training (and encouraging) people to be engaged is easy. There are so many barriers to speaking up. My advice is to practice, practice, practice. Try saying something in the everyday situations where it's really about being a good member of your community. You'll build up the confidence (and gain the positive feedback from the people you help) to say something in more challenging situations.

What is your pet peeve about the word bystander?
The whole concept is not always that clear. We have different lines between necessary intervention, and stepping on other people's rights and privacy. It's an ongoing struggle for me in my life to decide "when it is appropriate to say something and when is it actually just invasive?" I think it is especially complicated around sexual situations because we are trained that these are always private.

Who is your role model (real or fiction) for someone who is willing to say something or do something?
Probably my college roommate Lisa. She is one of those people who is not afraid to point out when someone else is being inappropriate and she will tell them sweetly and directly, eye to eye. I remember once in college, she saw a young man wearing an offensive t-shirt, and she called him out on the fact that it was mocking rape victims and how horrific that was. I have no idea if it changed his outlook or behavior, but it made a difference to me that she so easily could stand up for what she believed. I was really proud to be her friend and I think more able to do this myself after she so easily showed me how to be that engaged bystander.

Lauren is now the Manager of the text4baby campaign at the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. Previously, Lauren served as the Prevention Campaign Specialist at the NSVRC, where she managed the Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign and was a member of the Communications Department.

Filed under