Bystander intervention has been growing in popularity over the last several years as research-based data has become more available, highlighting real-world successes in lowering rates of violence in communities and/or schools in which an organized and systematic campaign has been adopted. In January of 2017, the Annex began a project partnership with the Sexual Violence Center (SVC) to develop a series of trainings for high school students focused on developing skills and knowledge in bystander intervention. This project, The Courage to Act, is supported by a mini-grant from MNCASA, and is resulting in a variety of educational programming ranging from an intensive three-part workshop to a tabletop activity that will bring the core concepts of bystander intervention to health fairs and community education events throughout Minneapolis and beyond.
Back in May of 2016, the Annex, SVC, and other service providers of health resources and victim/survivor support services in Minnesota participated in a training workshop with Green Dot, Inc. the industry’s leading program in large-scale bystander intervention implementation, hosted by MNCASA. The MNCASA grant was initially intended for participant organizations to implement the Green Dot method within their service community, however the Annex and SVC felt compelled to create curricula and programming more specifically aligned with our politics and working understanding of the conditions in which violence thrives. Rooted in an understanding of rape culture, The Courage to Act recognizes that violence has been normalized throughout all aspects of our everyday life, and understands that everyone is in some way a survivor of some form of violence. We value bystander intervention as an essential part of dismantling rape culture and preventing acts of sexual violence, domestic and intimate partner violence, harassment, and bullying. By undergoing the Green Dot training, we were able to identify gaps in their programming and trainings that informed strategic adjustments in the formation of The Courage to Act. It was essential for us to create curricula and trainings that are explicitly trauma-informed and survivor-focused both within the training space itself as well as in the methods taught, while incorporating a significant module focusing on rape culture.
Fundamental to the core approach of The Courage to Act, is the understanding that violence most often occurs between individuals who know each other, whether they are in an intimate partnership, family members, friends, or acquaintances within a community or social circle. As a result, we approach bystander intervention believing that resources and skills that participants learn will most likely be utilized in interrupting the violence that occurs between or among individuals they know and whom they care about and have relationships with. While these resources and skills can absolutely be utilized in situations of violence occurring among unknown individuals, our belief is that bystander intervention has the most opportunity for successful and lasting interruption, de-escalation, and hopefully prevention of further violence when it happens among people who know one another.
In order to make the concepts of bystander intervention accessible to as many high schools and after-school programs as possible, we are developing four key components as part of The Courage to Act project: an intensive workshop broken into three parts totaling 180 minutes; a one-time introductory presentation of 60 minutes; an overview module to be included in general presentations on sexual violence, healthy relationships, rape culture, etc. running 15-minutes; and a tabletop activity to be utilized while tabling in community education situations.
As part of the development process, we are currently piloting the three-part workshop within two Annex after-school groups at Prairie Seeds Academy and the Annex Advisory Council at Armstrong Senior High School. These pilot opportunities are fundamental to the development process, and so far are providing invaluable insight into the successes and shortcomings of the curricula, allowing us to make adjustments based on practical implementation experience.
**Written by Brett Goldberg, Founding Editor, thebridgesweburn.com, who is consulting with the Sexual Violence Center to develop and write The Courage To Act curricula.