This post is by Karla Vierthaler, Advocacy and Resources Director for the NSVRC.
*Please note that this post is written for allies: white allies to people of color, straight allies to people who identify as LGB, cisgender allies to people who identify as transgender, etc. Right now, many people do not feel safe (including people who have survived sexual violence), and many people want to help. This post is for those who may want to help.*
We know that one way to end sexual violence is to promote the social norms that protect against violence. Evidence shows that bystander intervention and mobilizing boys and men have been successful ways to change that culture. What hopeful and powerful information to have as preventionists!
In these times, it is inportant to bring these evidence-based techniques to another part of our work—work as allies. We know that oppression and sexual violence are inextricably linked, and that part of our role in ending sexual violence is to end racism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, and all forms of oppression. We also know that we need to support everyone impacted by oppression, just as we support survivors of sexual violence.
Right now, marginalized communities feel alone at best and frightened at worst. Our responsibility as preventionists, advocates, and allies is twofold:
- Bystander Intervention—interrupt oppression. Stand up and speak out when you hear racist, sexist, or homophobic comments. This may feel uncomfortable, but planning ahead can make it easier if the moment arises. Think about a few simple, direct things you might say. You could talk with friends about supporting each other if an intervention is needed. It can feel safer to say something when you know you are not the lone dissenter. Keep in mind that your discomfort is interrupting the fear and hurt experienced by people the comments were about.
- Be a better ally—embrace your role as an ally. Learn more about being an ally. Educate yourself and then educate others as an ally.
Friends, we can change the world. Stand up and do your part.