On Nov. 16, Baruch College’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Committee hosted a bystander intervention workshop. The workshop, which was presented by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, explained the underlying problems around not taking action when sexual harassment happens. It also detailed how people can be “positive bystanders” and stop actions of sexual harassment from happening around them.
Instructor Jeenie Yoon explained that “everyone has been a bystander, or will be at one point, and we have a responsibility to speak up.”
She taught the audience how to identify harmful behavior and how to intervene in different scenarios. The course explained the different ways bystanders can intervene, including direct intervention, distraction and delegation. Alternate approaches, based on the situations presented, were also shown. In direct intervention, one directly calls out someone for inappropriate behavior. Through distraction, a bystander can diffuse a situation by distracting the people involved and stopping the situation from continuing. Delegation is about distributing tasks to others in order to take control of a situation.
Yoon explained that people must not let the bystander effect, or the assumption that someone else will intervene when in a crowd, deter people from getting involved.
Throughout the session, Yoon gave multiple examples of sexual assault cases and asked the audience what they would do in that situation. People had many different ideas, and she went through the ups and downs of each approach. Yoon explained the rape culture in today’s society and how it condones violence, particularly toward women.
Violence includes relatively minor visual and verbal gestures, such as winking and catcalling, and also more physical actions, such as groping and rape. Yoon argued that by allowing minor actions and ideologies against women and sexism to be acceptable in society, people are promoting sexual offenders to act as they do, and encouraging others to act this way as well.
The view of women as being lesser than men is a large part of the problem, said Yoon. She explained that many men seem to think that they have a right to women’s bodies and act accordingly. Everyone must let it be known that women are not sex objects and that people should stop behaving in this manner. In summary, Yoon said that “Everyone has the ability to be a perpetrator or a victim, and if we don’t realize we have this capability, then we’re just keeping this status quo in place.”
Yoon went into the stereotypes we have about sexual predators and how they are often false. That being said, Yoon explained that people must always pay attention to those around them to keep themselves and others out of
She addressed the common uneasiness around getting involved in a situation in which one does not know the full story and is unsure if someone is being assaulted by saying that “You don’t have anything to lose,” because it is better to be safe and check in with one of the participants anyway.
The issue of sexual assault and misconduct has been prominent in the news lately, spanning from actors in Hollywood to top businessmen and politicians. These perpetrators were addressed in the presentation as examples of how serious and common the matter of sexual misconduct is.
The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “Prevent sexual violence and reduce the harm it causes through education, research and advocacy,” according to the organization’s website.
The issue of sexual assault is taken very seriously at Baruch. There are many resources available at Baruch for those who experience sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, such as counseling and therapy, as well as other support systems.
For more details about where to seek guidance for issues of this kind, students can refer to the college’s website.
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