Stopping Sexual Violence: Bystander Training Learned at MTSU

Story by Aubrey Salm / Contributing Writer

On Monday, Middle Tennessee State University Fraternity and Sorority Life hosted a bystander training course discussing sexual violence and hazing.

The two-hour session hosted by Leslie Merritt, MTSU director of Fraternity & Sorority Life, and Daleigh Thompson, a recent graduate of MTSU and advocate for consent and accountability, promoted awareness and intervention training.

“It’s a big topic that some people tend to put on the backburner and not advocate for themselves. It’s important to make sure we are advocating for each other as women and that we all have the resources to get help if we need it,” said Thompson.

The class discussed different types of violence with the majority crowd of young women, such as stalking, relationship violence, sexual violence, to recognize symptoms of bad relationships to prevent them from happening.
According to The Power of One, an organization fighting against gender-based violence, “Sexual assault is experienced by one in four women and one in sixteen men on a college campus.”

With such a significant number of assaults occurring on college campuses, it is vital to know specific steps to help intervene.

“Noticing the incident, interpreting it as an emergency, assuming responsibility, and having the bystander intervention skills are the most important steps to take when faced with sexual violence and hazing,” said Merritt.
Bystander intervention skills are essential to combat the bystander effect. Individuals are less likely to intervene in a situation because they believe that others, not them, will extend help to the victim.

Some bystanders might feel embarrassed to act or overlook the situation, and in rare cases, believe the victim deserves the treatment. Stressing the importance of speaking up and acting was a common point between Merritt and Thompson.

Many sorority members attended the course to get an insight into how not to be a bystander.

Hazing is another potentially harmful situation. Hazing comes in two types like harassment and violence.
Hazing can cause emotional anguish, physical or physiological harm. The method of detouring hazing is using the four D’s method.

Distract, delegate, direct, delay and document the incident. Using these tactics can ensure the safety of a bystander and safely remove the victim from the situation.

Over the past six years, Merritt has tackled speaking about this challenging topic. Her overall message is to remind students that if one sees something, say something.

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