Assault Prevention Training Targets College Freshmen in 'Bystander Intervention'



It's called "bystander intervention."

In the wake of a Jan. 22 meeting at the White House, where President Barack Obama said, “Bystanders must be taught and emboldened to step in and stop it," a new effort is pushing for greater awareness of sexual assaults on and near the nation's college campuses.

As an example, advocates paint the picture of a drunken young man at a party pawing a drunken young woman. But then, someone nearby needs to step in and get one of them out of there.

"We're not looking to create Captain Bystander here," Jane Stapleton, who runs bystander intervention programs, told The New York Times. In fact, she suggested that students need to be creative about "outmaneuvering aggressors," by turning on the lights at a party, spilling a drink, forming a conga line or pulling the potential victim to the dance floor. One of her favorites, the Times reports, came from a young woman who approached her drunken girlfriend and said, loudly, "Here's the tampon you asked for."

Incoming freshmen are the primary target. A study by United Educators, an insurance company owned by more than 1,200 member colleges and universities, found that 63 percent of accusers in sexual assault cases are first-year students.

Advocates hope bystander programs will have the same impact on campus culture that the designated driver campaign had in reducing drunken driving deaths (to 9,878 in 2011 from 15,827 in 1991).