Chapter 1 - Consent Subchapter: Stepping in

Why is bystander behaviour important?

Key points

  • When you witness someone moving the line on someone else, you become a bystander.
  • You’re not obliged to do anything, but you have the opportunity to help.
  • There are lots of reasons why you might be reluctant to step in, which is why having a simple system can make it easier.

 

What makes you a bystander?

Woman observes another woman being preyed on by a man at a wedding by touching her arms. Neither of the women are impressed.

 

If you spend enough time with enough people, you will see someone moving the line on someone else:

  • Stealing or vandalising someone’s property
  • Pressuring someone for kissing, touching or sex
  • Bullying or harassing someone for fun
  • Assaulting someone in anger or revenge

When you’re a witness to a line move, you become what’s called a bystander. And as a bystander, you face a choice about whether or not to intervene.

 

Examples

  • At a nightclub, I was watching this creepy old guy trying to make out with this young girl who was really drunk. I wanted to make him go away.
  • At a bus stop, this old lady started screaming racial abuse at this group of teenagers for no reason, they weren’t doing anything except sitting there. I wanted to tell her to stop.
  • I saw some kids at school bring another kid’s bag into the toilets and throw everything down one of the toilets. I wanted to make them stop.
  • In the street one time there was this guy who had a woman cornered in the entrance to a bank, and he was screaming at her and she was screaming for him to leave her alone, but he wouldn’t stop shouting and pushing her. I wanted to get her out of there.
  • I was walking through Chinatown late at night and this group of homeless people got into a fight, with one guy saying another guy had beaten up his friend, and they all started punching each other. I wanted to call the cops.

 

You have an opportunity to help

When you’re a bystander to a line move, you have the opportunity to help. But it’s not an obligation:

  • You’re not responsible for what’s going on.
  • The person moving the line is responsible for their own behaviour.
  • You don’t have to do anything that makes you feel unsafe.

 

Your help can produce all sorts of benefits:

  • If a line move is about to happen, you can prevent it.
  • If the line move is in progress, you can stop it escalating.
  • If the line move is finished, you can prevent it happening again in future.
  • You help the victim of the move.
  • You also help the community as a whole by reinforcing positive social norms.
  • You might even help the mover by steering them away from an action that might get them in more trouble later.

 

Why wouldn’t you help? We can have all sorts of reasons:

  • “This isn’t really a line move.”
  • “They can handle it themselves.”
  • “It’s not my business.”
  • “I’ll just make things worse.”
  • “I could be wrong.”
  • “It could be dangerous.”

 

There’s nothing wrong with these reasons; they could be completely correct in a given situation.

 

A guy on a bus who is far too close to a woman looks down at an observing bystander and the bystander looks away.

 

But we all have moments where we look back and wish we’d done something, so how can we step in and not regret it?

That’s where having a system can help, so in the Field Model we have a simple three step process for stepping in:

  • Check in
  • Disrupt
  • Recruit

 

We’ll unpack these steps in the next page.