Bystander intervention

The men of Alpha Tau Omega on Sunday afternoon learned more about bystander intervention when it comes to sexual assault in a scenario-based open discussion.

The discussion was led by the three AROTC cadets involved with the Cadets Against Sexual Harassment/Assault program.

The program was introduced last year and allows the cadets to better educate others on sexual assault awareness.

“Our biggest thing is that we want them to understand what being a bystander [is] and how to intervene," said Aleczander Martys, sophomore in construction engineering. "So we’re trying to make them leaders in this. What we talk about is understanding the situation and then being able to address that situation properly.”

Every AROTC cadet must go through an MVP training, which is a two-day course that informs the cadets about sexual assault and violence on campuses and walks them through examples and scenarios that they can use to inform others and be proactive in helping prevent future assaults.

“It’s a different way to teach sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Martys said.

Opening with a slideshow, Martys and Anna Hopkins, senior in biology, began the discussion that highlighted the four steps it takes to be an active bystander, which include taking notice of the situation, interpreting it as a problem, feeling responsible to deal with the situation and possessing the necessary skills to act.

They then displayed a pyramid of violence: racist/sexist and obscene jokes are at the bottom, sexual or verbal assaults and threats are in the middle and murder is at the top. This pyramid highlights that making sexual jokes promotes normalizing violence.

“It happens over a long period of time, and as you see, you get more comfortable with one level," Hopkins said. "And if you’re in an environment where people are telling a lot of sexist jokes, you’re going to start to think, ‘Hey, I guess we don’t care about women that much,’ and then you’re going to start to think that it’s OK to be serious about those jokes. And then it just moves up the ladder.” 

Hopkins said as people get more comfortable doing these things, they’re going to move to the next level of the pyramid without even noticing or finding error in their actions.

Martys and Hopkins prompted some questions that allowed fraternity members to voice their own opinions about the subject.

The questions, which were to be answered as “agree” or “disagree” and why, included:

  • In some situations, when a woman says no to a sexual advance, she could mean yes?
  • Is there a serious problem of sexual violence on Iowa State's campus? 
  • Is it OK for someone to call a woman a b---- if it's in a joking manner?”

These questions were met with discussions among the cadets and fraternity members, which allowed for different perspectives to be heard.

After the agree/disagree questions, Martys and Hopkins then offered several scenarios in which the members were asked to get into groups and discuss how they would handle certain situations.

“I want you guys to think about how you could intervene in a situation," Hopkins said. "Keep in mind it doesn’t always have to be you going up directly and saying, ‘Hey, stop what you’re doing right now.’ It could be as simple as stopping the situation by grabbing one of the people and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go get a super dog,'” 

One of the scenarios included two drunk strangers, who were interested in each other and wanted to leave the bar to go have sex. The fraternity members talked about how they would handle the situation.

One group decided it would stop the situation because “if you’re really drunk you can’t consent to sex,” and another group said it wouldn’t do anything because it wouldn’t want to be known as “c---blockers.”

This led to a discussion in which the cadets asked more questions and answered any other questions the members might have had.

After running through a few more scenarios and discussions, the cadets showed a video from YouTube called “Who are you?”, which displayed different times in which someone could have stepped in as a bystander to prevent a could be sexual assault.

To end the discussion, Martys and Hopkins asked the fraternity members if they had any more questions about the topic.

“In all the previous trainings that I’ve gone through, it’s been very black and white,” Hopkins said. “These things are totally not black and white. You have to think about the implications and the possibilities of things that could happen."

Mitchell Jecklin, sophomore in political science and risk management officer for Alpha Tau Omega had asked the cadets to come and give the presentation on the topic.

“I figured bringing it [the training] to the fraternity, expanding this more to greek life and everything is a beneficial tool for us,” Jecklin said.

Jecklin pointed out the positives of having an open discussion like this and he said he hopes that it will help in case anyone finds themselves in a situation like the ones mentioned in the presentation.

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