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Workshops Create Community of Active Bystanders at EIU

May-05-2014

Through lectures and workshops, Eastern Illinois University faculty, staff and students are determined to create a culture of active bystanders — those who react.

This April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, EIU community members did exactly that by engaging in two workshops focused on specific scenarios and activities of active bystanders.

Alan Berkowitz, an expert on bystander behavior, led the workshops and enlightened EIU professionals about the importance of continuing to create a culture focused on action.

“We brought in Berkowitz for a second time to EIU to continue to lead the bystander intervention training that we started in the fall,” said Jackie Hines, associate director of sexual assault prevention. “But, this time Berkowitz walked us through real-life scenarios too.”

“The main purpose of workshops was to continue to provide our community with necessary training and resources to know how to act in times of distress from violent acts to inappropriate remarks,” Hines continued. “The real-life scenarios allowed our staff members and students to exchange ideas and chat about how they would act in situations from a racist remark or homophobic statement.”

Throughout the workshops, Berkowitz provided specific strategies for intervention such as confronting the person, shifting the focus of the situation, changing the person’s attitudes or talking to a third party.

In a confrontation, Berkowitz said the bystander must make it clear that certain behaviors and remarks are not appropriate. In other situations, Berkowitz said bystanders may use the ‘shift focus’ strategy where an individual changes the subject, and does not address the issue head on. Berkowitz said sometimes bystanders can even change the person’s attitudes by opening up conversations, and helping the person understand why their behavior is problematic.

“Unwanted behaviors and social injustice can be reduced or prevented by active bystanders no matter what strategy they take,” Berkowitz said. “Bystander intervention is really about being a human being.”

The two workshop training sessions were only part of the sponsored events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Earlier in the month, The Counseling Center sponsored the Red Flag Campaign aimed at raising awareness about the warning signs of interpersonal violence. Red flags were placed around campus to represent the warning signs of interpersonal violence. Examples of interpersonal violence include sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and cyberstalking.

“We will continue to provide awareness and training about the warning signs of interpersonal violence and bystander intervention all year long, not just for one month,” Hines said.

Berkowitz is an internationally recognized expert on bystander behavior, drug prevention, violence prevention and social justice issues who works within colleges and universities, military organizations and public health agencies. He gives workshops throughout the country. For more information about Alan Berkowitz, click here.