It Only Takes One

By Carly Lanning

There is nothing easy about taking a stand in an uncomfortable situation.

We are one of the few creatures that does not instantly respond to our gut feelings. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, they are normally spot on.

When you see a couple’s fight starting to escalate or a guy trying to usher a drunk girl into a bedroom, that is when the moment to be an active bystander or just a bystander begins.

We can do something, or do nothing.

One of the biggest tools in our fight to end sexual violence is the education and actions of others. Though police, counselors and medical professionals are there for all the needs of a survivor, they will normally not be called in until after an assault has already taken place.

The biggest heroes are the friends and bystanders who make the decision to step in. Being an active bystander does not always mean that one has to run directly into a situation.

Designed by the Sexual Violence Center, the Green Dot program is a training program to engage and prepare bystanders through three different approaches named the 3Ds: Direct, Distract and Delegate. Their motto, “No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something.”

There are many factors that can hinder our involvement in a situation. We feel like we might make a fight worse, we are too shy, we don’t know the full story, we might be over reacting, we believe someone else will step in. With the 3Ds, bystanders can take an approach that is comfortable for them.

Direct: When one approaches a situation head on. In this approach, a person walks right up to the situation and let’s a person know that they need to stop. Examples:

  •  “You need to leave my friend alone. She is obviously not interested in you are making us uncomfortable.”
  • “Stop trying to take girls into this room or you will be asked to leave.”
  • “I need to take my friend home now and I do not need help, thank you.”

Distract: In some situations we can’t just walk right in, guns blazing, and take control. As a peer educator, the distract approach has been the most successful for me because it can easily diffuse a situation without placing extra stress on the bystander. When you see a situation going on, distract the two opposing parties with anything that comes to your mind. While you distract one person with your stream of consciousness, a friend you have asked to help can check in the with the person you are concerned about and find them a safe right home. Examples:

  • Hey, you were that guy in my English class right? Yeah that one class with that teacher. No? No, I am a thousand percent sure! We did that presentation on the pandas! Well would you mind if I talked with your friend here really quick? Thank you!”
  •  Spill your drink on them. No words necessary.
  •  “Hey, I think your car is getting towed outside. I will stay here with your friend, while you go and check it out.”
  •  “Hey that guy over there wanted to talk with you. He said it was something important. No, that guy in the far, far, FAR back corner. Yeah, just keep walking and you will find him. He is in the yellow shirt.”

Delegate: And last but not least, delegating. While each person has the power of their voice and actions, the power in numbers can be one of the most valuable tools. In many situations, you may not feel comfortable either going directly to talk with someone or having a friend distract them. So, call the dorm resident advisor, find the person’s friend groups, call the police and give the responsibility to someone else.

With these 3Ds, every person has the tools to stand up in their own way when situations become uncomfortable. With each interference, distracting comment, or call to an authority, you are making a change for the better. While you stand up for what is right, your actions will inspire others watching and in their next bystander situation, they will remember to use their voice for change.

To all the active bystanders, thank you for doing something.

For more information on the Green Dot program please visit:

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  1. Posted July 26, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

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