Do You Take Action?

All too often people witness a situation that makes them feel uneasy, is questionable behavior, or even worse yet is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive.

After witnessing a situation that is unhealthy there are two options: either respond in someway to the situation or do not respond. The impact of violence extends beyond its visibility. If we accept that all of us are affected in some way by violence, how do we decide whether or not to do something as an act of prevention?

Why do so many people not intervene when they see or know of something that is becoming abusive? Reasons typically heard for not speaking up about an event are: “It’s not my problem,” “I don’t want to make it worse,” “I don’t know what to do or say,” “I don’t want to be a snitch,” “I believe in the rights of the individual,” “I didn’t realize it would get worse,” or “That kind of stuff happens all the time.”

Most of the time the people that do get involved take action because the person involved is someone they care about, someone had once helped them, they just reacted because they would hope if they were in a similar situation someone would do the same for them, and if there was drinking involved the person that intervened wanted to make sure no one got hurt.

Rarely does someone wake up one morning and decide to be violent towards another. There are many acts or comments made that lead up to that extreme side of the continuum of behavior. If we limit our interventions to a culminating “event,” we miss multiple opportunities to do something or say something before someone is harmed. Instead, think of the “event” as being on a continuum of behaviors that demand specific interventions at each step.

At one end of the continuum are healthy, age-appropriate, respectful, and safe behaviors. At the other end are sexual abuse, rape, and violent behaviors. Between the ends are other behaviors, ranging from those that begin to feel inappropriate, coercive, and harassing. Each situation is an opportunity to intervene by reinforcing positive behaviors before a behavior moves further towards violence.

When would you intervene as you take a look at the Continuum of Behaviors?

Healthy, respectful, and safe behavior → Mutually flirtatious, playful → Age-inappropriate or non-mutual behavior → Harassment → Sexual abuse, violence

There are Five Steps Toward Taking Action:

• Notice the event along the continuum of actions

• Consider whether the situation demands your action

• Decide if you have a responsibility to act

• Choose what form of assistance to use

• Understand how to implement the choice safely

~ Darley and Latane, 1968

To respond and become engaged, become educated with what non-abusive behaviors would look and feel like. Develop skills to effectively intervene. Use community resources that are focused in certain areas in order to find the right tools to successfully address an inappropriate behavior.

Thank you to all who have stood up for a friend or even someone they didn’t know in hopes that it would stop a situation from becoming more hurtful in a violent, verbal, or physical form.

If you or someone you know is unsafe and would like to speak to an advocate please call HELP of Door County, Inc at 920.743.8785 or the Sexual Assault Center at 920.746.8996.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams.