What would you do if you saw someone at a party, in a class, or at your job touching women without their consent and making them uncomfortable? Do you know what you would say? What if you spoke up but they ignored you? What if they got mad? What if they grabbed you?
Recently at U-M, a group of students had to face just that question, and they worked together to recognize, intervene and interrupt the problem. You can read their inspiring story here.
Unwanted touching is fairly common, but very few of us have ever practiced what to do or say in response. It’s one thing to think about it, but quite another to stand up, raise your voice, and tell someone their behavior is not okay with you. Even though it feels good to speak up, it takes some practice.
It can help to know that it’s normal to feel confused when we see something dangerous, offensive or inappropriate in a social setting. We might tell ourselves “That can’t really be happening!” or “No one else is doing anything, maybe I’m overreacting.” In fact, these reactions are so common that social psychologists have labeled them the Bystander Response.
So what can you do? One way to prevent the bystander response is to practice speaking up and setting boundaries ahead of time. And it also helps to have some emergency skills prepared, just in case things get out of hand. This term, U-M students can practice these skills and strategies at free Personal Safety Education workshops. You’ll learn creative, realistic, and simple techniques for noticing bad behavior and interrupting it safely.
Personal Safety Education workshops are sponsored by the Dean of Students Office and U-Move. Register here for sessions at the CCRB. Or, if you know someone who lives in a co-op, members of the Inter-Cooperative Council can watch for special sessions coming soon to the ICC Ed Center, Minnie’s, and the North Campus Rec Room.