“Whether it’s your sister, your friend, or a complete stranger, step in and make a difference” (OneStudent, 2010). No Woman Left Behind (NWLB) is a bystander intervention program created by women for women and the men who care about them. It was established to educate communities about sexual assault and to create a culture that does not wait for someone else to take action. NWLB stresses the importance of “bystander intervention” to stop sexual violence. Bystander intervention involves taking personal accountability for a situation and stepping in to help someone in need as opposed to taking the often easier route of walking away.
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to complete my undergrad at Sacramento State University where No Woman Left Behind was created. A summary of the courageous story of the De Anza women and the assault survivor that inspired the campaign can be found on the OneStudent website. For two years, I worked with this amazing program. As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, this program is extra special to me.
There are several ways that I continue to support the goals of NWLB beyond working with the campaign since I have graduated from Sacramento State. First, I have worn the glow-in-the-dark wristband (although I have to wear it on my ankle since I have tiny wrists) for over a year. It frequently gets mistaken for a Livestrong bracelet, which presents me with the opportunity to explain what NWLB is and why it matters. The wristbands are available in the merchandise section of the NWLB program page of the OneStudent website. Second, I have a tattoo of one of the butterflies from the original campaign posters. The campaign posters showed a woman on the ground being pulled up to her feet by another woman with butterfly wings (instead of angel wings). The background of the poster also has a multitude of butterflies. My tattoo is a daily reminder that I not only have a duty to do what it takes to protect against sexual violence but also to prevent sexual assault through education and advocacy.
There are countless ways to help someone if you feel she/he is in danger. I stress firstly to not put yourself physically in harm’s way—there is always the option to call the police. Always use the buddy system (come together, stay together, leave together) at social gatherings, and if someone appears to be alone, make a new friend! Notice if someone seems to be “feeding” a woman alcohol or trying to get them drunk quickly. If a woman is obviously intoxicated (remember, intoxication does NOT automatically equal consent even if there was previous consent), it’s a good idea to steer them away from secluded areas, one-on-one conversation, and any further alcohol consumption. It can be a little scary at first to walk up to someone and say “I think you’ve had enough, it’s time to go home. You’re coming with me, not the person you just met” because you’re not sure how they will react. I know, I’ve done it before. But 95% of the time everything runs smoothly and they’ll be glad you helped avoid a bad night—if the other 5% comes around, you will have already practiced enough that you will be prepared for anything to happen. Lastly, never be afraid to follow your gut feeling. If your head and your heart are screaming that something’s not right, listen. Don’t hesitate to go into that bedroom or that bathroom or the backyard; it’s better to be safe and have a friend or a complete stranger a little angry with you, than to have stood by and done nothing to prevent a potential attack.
For more information on the NWLB program and what you can do to be someone who makes a difference (whether through promotional events, trainings, or starting a chapter on your campus), visit One Student/ No Woman Left Behind or email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional details.