Bystander Education

“I feel empowered to do something if I see someone screaming at their girlfriend or calling someone names in the hallway.” student from the Lincoln-Sudbury high school 

The MVP program recognizes the power of the bystander; a big part of the MVP training teaches bystanders how to react to sexual violence. The concept here is to provide participants with concrete options that they can use to prevent or interrupt abusive or potentially abusive situations involving teammates and friends. It empowers participants to play an active role in confronting sexual abuse. Many peeople want to help but lack the skills necessary to intervene in a safe manner. The key is to engage them in a process that leads to empowered skill building and decision making.

This quote and image is from a CNN article about the implementation of MVP at the Lincoln-Sudbury high school in Massachusetts.

MVP utilizes a unique bystander approach to prevention and education. This educational philosophy was adapted from Dr. Ron Slaby’s Habits of Thought model, which reflects the thoughts of perpetrators, victims and bystanders during conflicts. This is a disarming approach because it does not view men as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, or women as victims/survivors or potential victims. MVP views all participants as potential bystanders who can be empowered to confront abusive incidents involving peers. These discussions provide concrete tools for confronting, interrupting and preventing this violence, because the more options a person has available to them, the less likely they are to choose violence or to do nothing.

Think about how many times attendees have heard the “don’t” messages–don’t put yourself in bad situations, don’t stay out after 1 a.m., don’t have sex if you’ve been drinking, and on and on. In reality, people respond better to “do” messages, which can be categorized into four areas: direct, indirect, distraction, and protocol. As participants share their ideas, trainers challenge them to consider the reaction they could receive from the person they are confronting and push the group to think through the myriad ways they can approach a situation. Through these discussions, the attendees develop both strategies and the confidence to intervene when warranted. The more they think and talk this through with their fellow participants, the more able they will be to step up in the most difficult of social situations.