Importance of Bystander Intervention for Those at Risk of committing Sexual Violence Themselves

‘Sexual violence victimization of Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and the Role of Public Health and Prevention’ is another great article in the September/October 2011 issue of American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. As a follow up to my most recent post, a response to ‘Violence and Men’s Health: Understanding the Etiological Underpinnings of Men’s Experiences With Interpersonal Violence,’ this article made me think about how critical it is for perpetrators (or those showing signs of becoming perpetrators of sexual or interpersonal violence) to change on the individual level. Again, approaching this issue like a disease with a cure I want to highlight a suggested course of action that I think could make even more of a difference than the article suggests.

The ‘Sexual Violence Victimization of Women’ article discusses bystander prevention programs for males with symptoms of becoming perpetrators. Kathleen C. Basile and Sharon G. Smith suggest that these programs will raise awareness among males of peers that may be at risk of committing sexual violence. I completely agree with their thinking that this will make a difference because of the power of influence our peer groups have on our ideologies and decisions. I see such bystander prevention programs as also positively affecting at risk males as a bystander. Those at risk as bystanders are then also aware of themselves. One of the greatest effects a bystander can initiate is to make a perpetrator reflect on their words or actions. Programs that support and teach at risk males the importance of intervention seems like it would indefinitely heightened self-awareness of they themselves committing this same violence.

Such bystander prevention programs are recommended in association with working with adolescent males. When the root of this problem are ideas that make sexual violence or any violent victimization okay then that is exactly what we have to address directly. I do want to point out that parents as bystanders, who are aware of their influence and active in making the making a positive impact on their child understand their crucial role as well. ‘Violence and males’ tells us that parental supervision is higher with girls’ activities versus boys’ activities, and this is linked to the differences in physical aggression. I feel that this is something that individuals in parenting positions should consider, if for no other reason than to be aware of it. No more ‘boys will be boys’ kind of ideas. How can we put this into action? Is this something to consider as teachers or babysitters or older siblings as well?

-Sarah

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