Dear Engaged Bystander: Yesterday and today are days to celebrate Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.   It is usually a time for contemplation -- looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning for changes to make in the New Year. In celebrating this holiday, I like to also think about what was good about the past year and to think about what to bring into my life (our lives) for the future. 

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Dear Engaged Bystander:  The Merriam Webster definition of a bystander is: “one present, but not taking part in a situation or event: a chance spectator.” When I read this definition, it implies that we can watch an event and not be affected by it. Even the term, “bystander apathy” implies that people can watch and then choose not act because they don’t care. I believe that people care deeply stopping sexual violence and are deeply affected by what they see -- even if they choose not to act. 
 

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Dear Engaged Bystander:  I believe that our leaders need to model how to step in, they need to actively acknowledge the everyday heroes in our lives, and they have to call out the people who decide to do nothing. 
 
What would that look like? 
 

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Dear Engaged Bystander: You may have this experience too. When you do this work, friends and family call to talk about situations they face with their kids and often ask for advice. My brother who is a family practice doctor has the same experience… 
 

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 Dear Engaged Bystander:  When we talk about engaging bystanders in preventing sexual violence prevention, we nearly always talk about moments when boundaries have been violated, someone has been harrassed, or when the harm is done.  The element often forgotten is clearly stating and reinforcing healthy sexual development, healthy relationships and healthy boundaries. 
 
In the booklet I wrote for NSVRC, "Engaging Bystanders in Sexual Violence Prevention" I described a continuum of behaviors for bystander engagement.  The first box is: 
 

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Dear Engaged Bystander: I was incredibly moved by the story Cassandra Thomas told me. So I wanted to include this (again) in my blog of ten stories to celebrate 10 years of NSVRC’s great work. Here is her story:  
 

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Dear Engaged Bystander: I love this story because it is about two close friends I deeply care about.  One think I love about them is that they speak up whenever they feel they need to.  In this case, I also love that they come up with a solution that 1) let them take action and 2) shared the responsibility with a person in authority.  I hope you too will find this a useful illustration.  
 

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Dear Engaged Bystander: Most of you will be familiar with the story of Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, MA. She recently committed suicide after weeks and month of bullying by both boys and girls in her high school. From her death and the suicide of a young boy in Springfield, MA from bullying a new law was created in Massachusetts to encourage education, ensure that each school develop policies about bullying, and mandate reporting of bullying as well. 
 
 

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Dear Engaged Bystander:  Every day, there are stories of engaged bystanders taking action. Just this week, I read a letter to the editor in my local paper about the assistant manager of our small Taco Bell/KFC restaurant who saw a car hit a young woman on a bicycle and rushed out of the building to help. The author said: “Thank God this woman [the general manager] was able to act in a quick manner. She not only called 911, but she held the victim’s hand, instructing her not to move to prevent further injury, to take deep breaths, calm down, and that help was on the way.” 
 

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