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What would you do?

  • Published
  • By Lori Muzzana
  • Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
The term bystander conjures up many, and sometimes conflicting, images. For some the word makes you think of a passive, innocent bystander who could not, or did not, do anything in a dangerous situation. For others the word makes you think of someone more engaging who witnesses a car crash and calls for help or someone who "stands by" a friend when he or she is being harassed.

The reality is that everyone is a bystander in one way or another to a wide range of events that contribute to sexual violence. Every day, we witness situations in which someone makes an inappropriate sexual comment or perpetrates sexual harassment. Sometimes, we say something or do something, but at other times, we choose simply to ignore the situation.

How do we make those decisions? Is there a safe way to increase the number of times and situations in which we might choose to act, and could that way also make sense for others?

Anyone who lives in today's society likely feels the impact of the sexual violence surrounding us - even here at Malmstrom Air Force Base or in the city of Great Falls. The visibility of sexual violence has become more apparent in the mainstream media, the news, on talk shows, and in the memoirs of famous people. In fact, most of society is a bystander to sexual violence.

So - the question is: what would you do? If you arrived at a house party and within minutes of being there, you observed a women in the room looking distressed with a man standing in front of her leaning in and posturing himself in such a fashion that it would hard for her to move, what would you do? What if you were at a restaurant and you saw a man put something into his date's drink while she was not looking, what would you do? What if you were confronted by a friend telling you how he was going to get the new girl drunk and take her home, what would you?

These situations are some of what people - bystanders -- are exposed to. Would you be the person who walks away or doesn't want to get involved? Would that be what you would want someone to do for your sister, mom, aunt or best friend? Looking at it in those terms adds a new element to it, doesn't it? But should it?

I am asking you these questions to make you think and help you realize that until we begin being proactive about these situations and letting society know that we will not tolerate them, nothing will change and it just might be your family member who is victimized next.

What you can do:
1. Let people around you know that you do not tolerate degrading sexual talk of others 

2. Recognize when you or someone else's boundaries have been pushed and express your dislike of it. 

3. Speak up when you see someone in distress. Ask them if they are okay or call for assistance.
4. If you are not comfortable stepping up by yourself, ask a friend, one-on-one, if what they see is uncomfortable. Then ask them if they will stand with you to say something or both of you call for assistance. 

5. Get involved with local advocacy agencies on base or downtown (see a few listed below).

Bottom line is - show some respect for others and yourself. No one deserves to be sexually victimized.

Advocacy Agencies:

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office
Malmstrom AFB
Victim Advocates needed
Call 731-4130 to apply

Voices of Hope Crisis Line
City of Great Falls
Victim Advocate and crisis line support needed
Call 268-1330 to apply

Victim Witness Assistance Program
City of Great Falls
Victim Advocates needed
Call 771-1180, ext. 218 to apply

Survivors Support Group:
Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group
Meets Thursdays at 6:30-8:30 pm
YWCA 220 2nd St North
· Free, confidential support group for victims of sexual assault or rape. Daycare provided for children under 10.