By Laura Simpson
One child pushes another on the playground at recess. A teenager laughs at a classmate when they drop their books in the hallway. A group of men whistle at a woman as she walks by their front porch on a party night in a college town. What do all of these incidents have in common? Bystanders who did nothing.
Every community experiences positive and negative behaviors. A behavior that affects one member of the community ripples out, affecting everyone. Every member of the community has a responsibility to contribute positively to the overall health of that community. The only way that can happen is for every bystander to change from inactive to active.
In each of the scenarios listed before, there was an opportunity for someone to do something to help. Become an active bystander by intervening in situations in healthy and safe ways. Teach and empower children to be good friends, building on the natural empathy of young people. Challenge teenagers to find their voice and call-out their friends for making inappropriate or harmful jokes. Encourage adults, the role models for these young people, to address the bad choices of the other adults around them.
Children on the playground can help that child up, take them to an adult, and ask the child who pushed them to play nicer. The laughing teenager’s friend can ask them “how would you feel if someone laughed at you for dropping your books?” Someone on that porch can easily tell those men that they are making that woman on the street incredibly uncomfortable. These acts, no matter how small, can make a community safer and healthier. Utilize the amazing ability that every person, every bystander, has at their disposal.
Laura Simpson is the Marketing/Development Coordinator at The Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County, Inc., a nonprofit agency providing free, immediate, and confidential crisis response and compassionate support to children and adults impacted by crime and violence. 610-692-1926 ext. 213 | www.cvcofcc.org