Men and boys: Be an active bystander

The following information is from Te Invito, a toolkit to engage men and boys in the fight against domestic violence. This small excerpt briefly discusses how to be an active bystander.

Be an Active Bystander

This takes even more courage than influencing other men because it involves intervening when you see violence or the threat of violence. It is a tricky skill because you should not put yourself or others in harm’s way or respond to violence with more violence.  Being a positive bystander involves finding safe ways to interrupt a violent or potentially violent situation, even when it involves strangers.

Sometimes, just making the aggressor aware that you know about the situation might help mitigate the abuse. For instance, there is a new international campaign that originated in India, which encourages neighbors to ring the doorbell when they hear possible sounds of abuse and ask an unrelated question, such as “can I borrow some sugar?” These kinds of approaches might be particularly helpful in communities and situations when it is not recommended to call the police, for whatever reason. Of course, if you suspect that someone’s life is in danger, you should always call 911 right away.

Another creative approach to bystander intervention is illustrated by the story of a young man who, during a party, noticed that a group of men were leading an intoxicated young woman upstairs to one of the house’s bedrooms. He suspected that they were up to no good, but didn’t feel safe to physically intervene. Instead, he had a great idea: He pulled the fire alarm in the house and everybody had to evacuate it, while emergency personnel arrived at the scene. There are creative ways in which we can interrupt potentially dangerous situations, without escalating the violence.

The Hombres Unidos contra la Violencia Familiar program featured in the “Tools and Materials” section is a program that trains men to be positive bystanders. The Ring the Bell campaign mentioned above provides concrete ideas for community members to use to interrupt incidents of violence.