Students ‘Step Up’ for awareness

Talis Shelbourne

 Step Up, a three-hour training program on bystander intervention, was held on
Thursday in Stipes Hall.

 Presenters Liz Toomey, a graduate student of public health, Madison Cirks, a graduate student of psychology, and Debbie Collins from Western Illinois University’s Beu Health Center all emphasized everyone’s individual ability to improve a negative situation.

 “Pro-social behavior is any act performed with the goal of helping somebody and the intention of helping somebody else,” Toomey said.

 According to Cirks, bystander intervention is about recognizing how “the actions of one person can multiply and affect others.”

 The 1960’s murder of Kitty Genovese was used to demonstrate theconsequences of bystander inaction.

 Genovese was a New York woman who was murdered while walking home in the early morning; despite being stabbed at her doorstep and screaming for help several times, her attacker raped and murdered her as 37 residents listened to it happen.

 “While one person said something, nobody went down to assist her,” Toomey said. “She symbolizes the first case of a documented situation where somebody was murdered and nobody intervened.”

 To address the situation, the presenters advised trainees to assess theimmediacy of the situation and the level of help necessary to resolve it.

 “When there is an emergent or non-emergent situation where somebody is needing assistance, the diffusion of responsibility becomes a big deal,” Toomey said. “People are more likely to help when they’re alone than when there are others.”

 “Most people, when they are by themselves, 80 percent will do something if they are alone. If they are in a group, then only 20 percent of that group will intervene,” Cirks said.

 Reasons that people don’t say anything, as explained by Cirks, include fear of retaliation or self-endangerment, anticipation of misjudging the situation, time constraints, feelings of discomfort, and the desire to conform.

 Collins, however, related feeling of regret to the Genovese case for the residents that didn’t intervene.

“Help before the situation becomes too serious,” Collins said. “Sometimes people wait because they think that right now it’s not so serious, maybe it’ll dissipate, and then it gets worse and the situation is almost beyond your help.”

 Cirks also discussed post-intervention actions bystanders can take, such as
remembering the Law of Delivery.

“The Law of Delivery is to whom your saying something, what you’re saying, when you’re saying, where you’re saying it, why you’re saying it, and how you’re going to say it,” Cirks said, quickly explaining that, “The intent to try and make the victim feel better can actually incur secondary traumatization.”

 For example, she said that instead of querying a sex assault victim about why they left their drink or wore certain clothes, bystanders have a responsibility to change the culture of language around victim-blaming.

 “In reality we should be saying ‘don’t put things into peoples’ drinks, don’t make people feel like they have to go in twos,’” Cirks said.

 Anyone interested in pursuing training for bystander intervention or the Step Up program can contact Kaycee Peterman at (309) 298-2457.