Saturday, May 27, 2023

“Power of One”: MTSU IFC hosts bystander intervention training


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Photo and story by Connor Burnard / Contributing Writer 

MTSU’s Interfraternity Council held its bystander intervention training on Thursday afternoon in the Student Union Building. The presentation was “Power of One,” created and presented by Barbara Scales, the director of the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students. Austin Sawyer, Associate Vice President of Logistics for MTSU’s Interfraternity Council and Zakary Gosa-Lewis, Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life, were the hosts.

The presentation included a video in which a scenario before a sexual assault is depicted and participants were asked to identify potential bystanders in the video and describe what they could have done to prevent a sexual assault. This exercise prepares students on what to do in real-world situations.

Another video made by American University specified three techniques to prevent an assault, which are the “3 D’s”: direct, distract and delegate. The video teaches students how to approach each of these situations: directly talking to someone if an assault appears possible, distracting a person if it appears they intend to assault someone and calling the police or someone of authority nearby to delegate the situation to them.

Scales also discussed the “bystander effect,” which occurs when bystanders witness an assault but do nothing because they assume someone else will take care of it. She cited the case of Kitty Genovese, whose murder in Queens in 1964 is the source of the term “bystander effect” because many neighbors heard her calling for help as she died but didn’t respond. This tragic incident serves as a reminder to witnesses to step up and take action if something doesn’t seem right.

Scales was assisted in her presentation by MTSU’s Sexual Assault Liaison Amy Dean. Dean, a former Murfreesboro police officer, shared the reason she cares about bystander intervention training. In 1994, Dean was assaulted one day while jogging by a man with a knife. She was able to escape, but was shaken and unsure of what to do. Presentations like “Power of One” are meant to help in similar situations.

Scales concluded the presentation with advice on how to assist someone who says they’ve been assaulted.

“Tell them ‘I believe you’ and ‘How can I help you?’ Don’t try to ask a lot of questions like ‘What happened? What were you doing? What were you wearing? Were you drunk?’ Just say ‘I believe you’ and ‘How can I help you?’”  Scales said.

The Interfraternity Council hosted the presentation as part of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s “It’s On Us” week of sexual assault campaigning.

“It’s been mostly online, but we really wanted to do something impactful in front of the students,” Gosa-Lewis said.

“I think the ‘Power of One’ training in particular is just really good at showing how easy it is to step in to situations,” Sawyer said. “Before this, I really wouldn’t know what to do in a situation like that…but the three D’s are kind of like an arsenal of tactics you can have when you’re in a situation like that.”

MTSU offers information and help with sexual violence here.

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