Active bystander program gets start

Charles Rankin

As the number of sexual assaults and incidents of harassment rise on college campuses in the U.S., Washburn has begun to train its students, faculty and staff on how to help prevent such offenses.

The Bringing in the Bystander program, developed at the University of New Hampshire, is an initiative brought in by Washburn to bring awareness and an end to the violence against women.

Shelly Bearman, project coordinator for sexual assault education and prevention, is helping lead this program, which starts its strongest push this semester.

“We currently have 59 facilitators who are able to lead the training,” Bearman said. “Six of which are students.”

The six students are comprised of two First Year Experience Peer Educators and four psychology graduate students.

“It’s nice to have these grad students,” Bearman said. “Especially coming from the psychology department. They come with a lot of knowledge and have some clinical experience that can bring a lot into the program.”

Starting this semester, there is a push to make sure that every student has at least basic training in being an active bystander. The program is beginning with new and incoming Washburn students. 

“We are going into every WU 101 class, starting the second week of school,” Bearman said. “These are just 45 minute training periods. WU 101 students that want to know more are encouraged to reach out to us and we will certainly offer more training.”

In this short 45 minute time, students are introduced to the idea of being a prosocial bystander, an individual whose behaviors intervene in ways that impact the outcome of a situation positively.

The training also examines true stories, such as the Steubenville High School case in Ohio, one of the most infamous rape cases in history. It encourages students to discuss ways that bystanders can help to prevent such things from happening on and around their campus.

Bob Handley, WU 101 professor and director for strategic analysis and reporting at Washburn, is glad that this training is happening in the first few weeks of class.

“From everything I’ve read, talking about sexual assault early on is crucial,” Handley said. “This kind of training is something that can be useful throughout your time in college and even into your time after you graduate.”

Bearman hopes that this program can bring the Washburn community together for a common good.

“This program is all really about helping students succeed,” Bearman said. “As a community, we need to look out for each other. We should have the mindset that unless the whole Washburn community is safe, none of the Washburn community is safe.”

Bearman is also hoping to see every campus club and organization sign up to take part in training their members. For those interested in scheduling a time for their group, club or organization, to go through the Bringing in the Bystander training they can contact Shelly Bearman at [email protected].