Prevention and Bystander Intervention

Whittier College Bystander Intervention Brochure

Whittier College prohibits sexual misconduct and institutes prevention programming to prevent its occurrence and reduce individual students’ risk. It is the policy of the College to offer ongoing programming each year to reduce the risk of  all forms of sexual misconduct. Throughout the year, ongoing campaigns are directed to students, faculty, staff, and administrators that include strong messages regarding awareness and primary prevention—including normative messaging, environmental management, and bystander intervention—and discuss, among other things, California definitions of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and consent in reference to sexual activity. These programs also offer information on how to recognize warning signals and avoid potential attacks without applying victim-blaming approaches. Educational programs are offered to raise awareness for all incoming students and employees and are conducted as part of new student and employee orientation. 

Prevention and Bystander Intervention

Whittier College encourages bystander intervention, as long as students consider their safety first. Bystanders may witness emergencies, crimes, or risky situations that could lead to violence. In such a situation, bystanders have the opportunity to do one of three things: 1) nothing, 2) contribute to the negative behavior, or 3) provide assistance. Proactive bystanders are people that choose to provide assistance and prevent sexual violence.

Sexual violence is supported by cultural norms that let harmful attitudes, aggression, and coercion go unchecked. Proactive bystanders make a difference by preventing acts of violence, by changing our community norms from inaction to action and encouraging others to provide assistance in the future.

To be a proactive bystander, students should:

1. NOTICE an incident as one that needs their assistance. Situations that could benefit from proactive bystander intervention are everywhere, including language that indicates harmful attitudes towards people in situations where someone is too intoxicated to give consent. 

2. Take RESPONSIBILITY for intervening. Students are encouraged to be the leader that steps up and takes on the responsibility for doing something or who engages others in intervening as a group.

3. Be READY to intervene by having the skills and practicing. Students are encouraged to learn to delay a situation, distract either person, delegate the intervention to their friends, or be direct in their intervention to stop violence from happening.

Whittier College encourages all students to commit to the following tenants of the Bystander Pledge:

  • I pledge to do my very best to help prevent sexual violence. I will do this by having the focus and the self-control necessary to remain aware of my surroundings, the wisdom to identify dangerous situations, and the courage to take action in confronting situations.
  • I will not commit rape or acts of sexual violence.
  • I recognize that dangerous situations may arise at times when people feel safe and comfortable, especially if alcohol/drugs are influencing the situation.
  • I realize that it may not always be easy to help people from harm in these situations, but by remaining watchful and showing care and concern, I may help to prevent sexual violence from occurring.
  • I understand that the ONLY person responsible for sexual violence is the person who engages in sexual contact without the consent of the other person.
  • I will respect other people’s rights to say no or to change their minds at any time.
  • I understand that consent is verbal and active and that it t cannot be given if the other person is incapacitated or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Through my own positive words, actions, and beliefs, I am taking the responsibility of helping to end sexual violence. I am only one person, but I cannot and will not be a bystander who does nothing.
  • I will treat all survivors of sexual violence with respect and consideration and NEVER blame them for the way they were dressed, if they were under the influence of drugs/alcohol, or have consented in the past.

Risk Reduction

Risk reduction tips can often take a victim-blaming tone, even unintentionally. With no intention to victim-blame, and with recognition that only those who commit sexual violence are responsible for those actions, the suggestions below may nevertheless help you to reduce your risk of experiencing a non-consensual sexual act:

  • If you have limits, make them known as early as possible.
  • Tell a sexual aggressor “NO” clearly and firmly.
  • Try to remove yourself from the physical presence of a sexual aggressor.
  • Find someone nearby and ask for help.
  • Take affirmative responsibility for your alcohol intake/drug use and acknowledge that alcohol/drugs lower your sexual inhibitions and may make you vulnerable to someone who views a drunk or high person as a sexual opportunity.
  • Take care of your friends and ask that they take care of you. A real friend will challenge you if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them when they do.

If you find yourself in the position of being the initiator of sexual behavior, you owe sexual respect to your potential partner. These suggestions may help you to reduce your risk for being accused of sexual misconduct:

  • Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give them a chance to clearly relate their intentions to you.
  • Understand and respect personal boundaries.
  • DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about consent; about someone’s sexual availability; about whether they are attracted to you; about how far you can go or about whether they are physically and/or mentally able to consent. If there are any questions or ambiguity, ASSUME YOU DO NOT HAVE CONSENT.
  • Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should stop and defuse any sexual tension and communicate better. You may be misreading them. They may not have figured out how far they want to go with you yet. You must respect the timeline for sexual behaviors with which they are comfortable.
  • Don’t take advantage of someone’s drunkenness or drugged state, even if they did it to themselves.
  • Realize that your potential partner could be intimidated by you or fearful. You may have a power advantage simply because of your gender, size or some other factor. Don’t abuse that power.
  • Understand that consent to some form of sexual behavior does not automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual behavior.
  • Silence and passivity cannot be interpreted as an indication of consent. Read your potential partner carefully, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal communication and body language.