What does being an active bystander look like?

After a long week of midterms, essays, extracurricular activities or whatever it is that fills our time and energy as students and as people, it’s nice to unwind. Sometimes we unwind by heading off to an off-campus party with friends, or having some beers and a few pounds of wings, or maybe by going to dance it all away on the bar dance floor. I think it’s safe to say that when students go out, we don’t want to have to worry about what might hurt us. We want to take a break and just enjoy being in the company of the ones who love us and make us laugh.

Unfortunately, going out can come with its own worries, and this year is no different. So far this semester, there have been disclosures of suspected drink spiking at off-campus parties and local drinking establishments. This is not the first year that SHARE has heard about drink tampering and the use of date-rape drugs in Sackville. As part of SHARE’s Sexual Violence Prevention Strategy, each month has a theme that corresponds to issues faced on campus. October’s theme is safer partying and awareness surrounding drink-spiking, date-rape drugs and how to respond to an incident.

So, what can we do in order to feel safer when we go out? What can we do to keep each other safer? We can turn our fear into awareness and we can all take a stand as active bystanders.

If you notice a friend, acquaintance or stranger who seems too drunk, weak, disoriented or disinhibited for the amount of alcohol they’ve consumed, then it may be a case of drink-spiking. In order to be an active bystander, there are five easy steps anyone can take:

 

  • Notice the event

 

You may notice either the actual act of drink-spiking – such as someone hovering around an unattended drink – or its aftermath. You may also hear someone mention they have such a plan. While this does not mean you have to always be on high alert, being informed on the issue and knowing what to watch for is always helpful.

 

  • Interpret it as a problem

 

Any act of drink-spiking is a problem! If anyone says they are going to tamper with a drink or puts something in someone else’s drink, or if you see the signs of someone acting odd, it’s a problem!

 

  • Assume personal responsibility

 

As friends, peers and members of this community, we all have a responsibility to keep each other safe. We may think someone else will take action. Or we may think we will be interfering or unwelcome if we try to do anything. But we need to recognize that we all have the power to step in and take a stand against sexual violence.

 

  • Know how to help

 

There are many ways that you can step in and help, they are the four Ds: Direct, Distract, Delegate and Delay. If you hear someone talking about doing something, or that a friend plans to do something, or if you see someone spiking a drink, you could go talk to them directly. You can delegate by telling security, bouncers, other patrons or the hosts of the establishment or event. You can warn others, try to intercept the drink, distract the perpetrator or remove whoever is being targeted from the situation. If you see someone who you believe has had their drink spiked and is experiencing the effects of it, you can call 911 and clearly state you think someone has been date-rape drugged, take them to a safe space, surround them with friends or trustworthy assistance and reassure them. You can also contact SHARE, by call or text at 506-540-7427, for help, advice and counselling.

And if someone tells you they think they were drugged, you can assure them that you believe them and help them find the right help and resources.

 

  • Take a stand!

 

Put all of the four Ds into action! Simply understanding bystander intervention makes you more likely to intervene! Taking a stand can be scary, but we’re all capable of it because, in the end, taking a stand is about channelling the empathy for others we all have inside of us.

So as the school year goes on, let’s continue to go out with our friends to unwind and have fun, but let’s go armed with the knowledge we need to be fully confident in speaking out against sexual violence and standing up for each other.

If you have experienced any form of sexual violence, SHARE is great way to care for yourself or a friend! Email share@mta.ca, or call or text 506-540-7427. The sexual assault nurse examiner is located at 135 MacBeath Ave. in Moncton. If you are interested in receiving active bystander training or in becoming an active bystander trainer, contact share@mta.ca.

Cecilia Watt
Cecilia Watt is a contributor to the Argosy.