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What would you do? GSU trains students to be “active bystanders”

Program administrator Dr. Allison Smith leading the training

Grambling State University officials, faculty members and student leaders attended the Bystander Intervention Training session on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in the Favrot Student Union.

Dr. Allison Smith introduced herself to the audience before kicking off the presentation. Smith is the program administrator for the Louisiana Center Addressing Substance Use in Collegiate Communities.

 Bystander intervention is a type of training used to prevent potentially harmful situations, such as sexual assault or rape, bullying, violence and racist, homophobic or transphobic comments.

Bystanders are the group of people surrounding the situation who make a choice of whether or not to speak up or intervene in some way.

Smith’s initial goal, along with the Louisiana Higher Education Coalition, is to seek to reduce harm on college campuses across the state.

“If something is an emergency, even if it is not safe, you still have to help.” Smith said. “The way you offer help may look different, but you still need to intervene. Even if that means driving in your car before calling the police, that is still considered a form of help.”

Studies show that victims are less likely to receive help if the number of bystanders is large, in what is called the “Bystander Effect.” The term was created by psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley after the murder of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, who was killed in 1964 by a man just outside her apartment in New York City. It was originally reported that 37 bystanders turned their back on Genovese as she cried for help.

Tuesday’s training focused on tools and steps that could help bystanders direct situations into a more positive outcome rather than standing by and watching things unfold.

Using three training modules throughout the presentation, Smith made sure to touch on every aspect that could invoke the role of a bystander, whether the circumstance involved drugs, alcohol or psychological impairment. Different intervention styles were discussed to show that not every situation has to be approached the same.

Toward the end of the intervention training, guests were broken off into groups to participate in role playing schemes that involved the actions of victims, offenders and bystanders. Every group was given a different scenario and it was up to them to decide which intervention styles helped the situation result in a better outcome.

Tundra Turner, a relational social counselor for the GSU Student Counseling and Wellness Resource Center, believes that bystander intervention training should be made mandatory on campus.

“I think bystander training is well needed for the student population, faculty and staff,” Turner said. “A lot of incidents are unreported, and a lot of people do not understand how important reporting is. If there is a situation and you are a bystander, you are just as guilty as the person who is doing the offense.”