Among friends: The bystander

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While the past few articles in the “Among friends” series have talked about services that are available to Florida Southern College students, this last article is geared towards someone that can be found anywhere in the world, as well as a possible event that may bring them to light. The person in question? The bystander.

This article is part of an ongoing series examining the support system available on campus and in the community for students who have experienced sexual assault. For the last article in the series, we are taking a look at the bystander.  

For a long time, the word “bystander” has created the image of a passive person who watches while an event takes place. Yet, thanks to the work of activists like Jacskon Katz, preconceptions about the role of the bystander have changed, evolving into the “bystander” approach.

The approach, also known as the bystander model, was created in part by Katz and used by organizations like the military. It encourages people not to be idle in the face of sexual assault and domestic violence. For those unfamiliar with the approach, the actions of the Women’s Advocacy Club, and other students, have opened the door to the prospect of a unique educational opportunity: learning about it from Katz himself this April.

The idea to have Katz appear on campus had its genesis when a friend of Lauren Griffin, the president of Women’s Advocacy Club, sent her a Ted Talks video in the fall semester. The video featured Katz arguing passionately against the idea that sexual violence wasn’t a women’s issue, categorizing it instead as an issue that affected all of society.

Later, he discussed how a behaviors are linked to stereotypical portrayals of manhood. The view is shared by Karen Lea from victim services at Peace River Crisis Center.

“It’s very much prevalent in our society, ‘boys will be boys’ and it’s okay for them to be rough and tumble, to have multiple sex partners, and even when a girl is saying no, men believe women are being coy and they don’t really mean no,” Lea said.

The video’s message about taking a stand in everyday situations against cultures that, consciously or unconsciously, encourage violence struck a chord with Griffin.

“He challenges people to step up to the plate and go against the bystander effect, rather than giving into it,” Griffin said. “But he didn’t say it in a demeaning way that made people feel that they weren’t doing enough, or being enough or they were any less of a person. He kind of just challenges them.”

Inspired by what she had seen, Griffin and her friend Amy Scroggin met with Dr. Marcie Pospichal, student support Title IX officer, about the logistics of possibly bringing Katz to campus. Pospichal referred them to Mike Crawford, assistant dean of students.

The idea, and Katz’s approach, appealed to Crawford, who got on the phone with Katz’s manager to discuss bringing him to campus.

“I believe that we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, I believe that that’s our responsibility,” Crawford said. “And I believe it’s our responsibility to look out for one another, and to treat each other with respect.”

While Crawford has traditionally been involved in bringing speakers to the campus for Convocation, Katz’s visit will be different.

The plan is for Katz to have his own unique event that will allow for greater interaction with the student body. Student leaders will have a chance to talk to Katz during a dinner before his 90-minute speech. After the speech, all students will be able to ask him questions afterwards in a reception, continuing the dialogue.

However, because of the unique nature of the event, not everything is set in stone. Katz’s $7,500 speaking fee was not originally included in the budget, so the money has to be found elsewhere.

“Had they come to me when we were in the budget process for the next year it would have been different, but it’s unbudgeted, so it’s something we have to piece together,” Crawford said.

The amount is a lot of money for any one organization to raise, which is why the speaking fee is being paid for by a coalition of organizations, including the Student Government Association and the Association of Campus Entertainment. For example, SGA pledged up to $3,500 to help bring him to campus.

“We’re kind of pooling resources from wherever we can,” Griffin said.

Other organizations that are involved in some way or another are the Center for Student Involvement and Greek Life. The goal is to get even more student organizations participating in the coming weeks. Crawford plans to reach out to FSC Athletics, ROTC and Academic Life, making the event campus-wide.

As of March 20, when this paper was published, some details are still up in the air. Crawford hopes to know for sure whether or not Katz is coming in the next week or so, since the goal is to get Katz to FSC in April.

“I’m not one that backs down from a cause or a challenge,” Crawford said. “I don’t like to take no for an answer when I think it’s something that could benefit our student body.”

 

Screenshot of TED Talks Video