MATE (formerly Mentors in Violence Prevention) by Griffith University is a leadership program focused on preventing all forms of violence against women. It empowers participants to be active bystanders with practical tools to interrupt violence and challenge sexist behaviour.
- It takes courage to step into a situation, regardless of what is occurring. As a bystander our first priority must be personal safety, always be conscious of the potential consequences of your actions. Yet, this is not a reason to avoid action completely. Always ensure your safety.
- When we do nothing at all our actions send a very loud message of acceptance. By intervening as bystanders, we challenge the power dynamics in a situation. An interruption may ensure a situation does not escalate. Be an Active Bystander everyday.
Sometimes, challenging inappropriate behaviour or language can be done indirectly with just a look, a question, or a distraction.
Simple interventions can be enough to plant a question in the minds of those involved, raising questions like ‘Is this behaviour normal?’ ‘Is this behaviour okay?’ ‘What do other people think about this behaviour?’
Slowly these challenges can begin to demonstrate that our society will not tolerate violent behaviour and will not tolerate men’s violence towards women.
In order to ensure your safety as a bystander, you must think strategically and it can help to practice ahead of time.
Using one of the following four strategies, we as bystanders can challenge many situations:
In some situations the most effective way of dealing with inappropriate behaviour is to call it out then and there. Step up and say: “This is not ok.” “This behaviour is not acceptable.”
Assess the situation before you choose direct action as sometimes this can provoke a response or escalate the behaviour. Always make sure it is safe to directly intervene.
Sometimes addressing the problem in the heat of the moment can be counterproductive. If there is no risk of the behaviour escalating and no need to act right away, an indirect approach can enable you to have a conversation with people involved.
Check in with the person experiencing the violence/inappropriate behaviour by asking:
‘Those people are being pretty offensive, are you alright?’
‘Are you feeling uncomfortable with this?’
Choose a time or place when things have calmed down and talk to the person about their inappropriate behaviour. For example:
‘I know you’ve been feeling a lot of pressure but this behaviour isn’t ok?’
‘I wasn’t comfortable with what happened at the party last night, can we talk about that?’
This can be a great low confrontation technique for bystanders to intervene. Distractions can provide an opportunity for the target of violence or sexism to remove themselves to a safe space, or can diffuse focus and tension in the situation to de-escalate. Try one of these:
‘Sorry to interrupt but I’m not from around here. Can you please give me directions to the bank?’
‘Excuse me, have you seen a little dog running around here? Mine has run away…’
‘Hey mate, come and dance!’
This strategy can also be combined with other approaches, such as indirectly following up later on to talk about why you felt the need to act the way you did.
Protocol also means referring to authority if you need to. Don’t be afraid to call the police, report to school principal or supervisor, talk to the host of the party, bar staff or security.
Naming something can be very powerful, call out what you see. For Example:
‘That’s emotional abuse.’
‘That’s assault, that’s against the law.’
Find out more…..
Talk to us about running a MATE session in Gippsland.
Listen to ABC Gippsland interview our Training Coordinator on MVP. Sarah goes through a MVP training session with Sian Gard, on the challenge of us all being a leader.
Testimonial of an Active Bystander
Received by a participant of our MVP session who felt empowered by the strategies we shared, particularly the ‘distract’ option of intervening. Distraction can sometimes create a safe non-confrontational diversion and offer the potential victim an exit, while de-escalating the situation.
‘Last night I had an opportunity to put my bystander training into action. I was at the ATM in town and a man was speaking aggressively to a woman and pointing his finger repeatedly at her face. He seemed quite aggressive and the lady looked upset but was still taking to him. I wasn’t really sure what was going on but decided to intervene by distracting him and asking where an ATM was for a different bank. He stopped talking to her and explained to me where the other was, while he was talking to me it left the women free to take out some cash. I walked around the corner and waited a minute before coming back to make sure she was okay, and they were driving away. Hopefully it made a difference!’
While we can never be sure what happens after a situation (once these two people drove off in their car, for example), when we do nothing at all our actions send a very loud message of acceptance. Without having any further information, our bystander was able to intervene without putting themselves in danger of confronting or escalating the situation. In a short space of time they recognised a problematic situation and implemented a bystander strategy to step in. By sharing this story, our bystander is also continuing the conversation to encourage and empower other bystanders, just like you. Thank you to each and every one of our active bystanders, using whatever strategies you can to safely challenge men’s violence against women. We couldn’t do it without you!