Bystander Messaging Matters!

Bringing in the Bystander (BITB) is an evidence-based bystander intervention program from Soteria Solutions that teaches students, faculty, and staff how to become prepared and active bystanders who can help prevent sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. This program, delivered to students by trained facilitators in either 90-minute or 4.5 hour sessions, is unique because the curriculum and end user license allow each campus to adapt the program to fit their unique needs and population. 

We know that college campuses across the nation are often vastly different and each serves a diverse population; a one-size fits all program cannot effectively touch and motivate every student. Instead, by encouraging adaptability, campuses can brand the program. As noted in the BITB facilitator guide, this can be done in several ways including using school colors and local language, portraying identifiable scenarios, and incorporating BITB into a larger sexual assault prevention program. 

Hear from BITB Schools
To better understand how different campuses utilize BITB as part of their comprehensive sexual assault prevention efforts, I spoke with Dustin Struble from the University of Kansas (KU) and Dr. Emily Rosser from the University of Windsor (UWindsor). Both of these experts offered unique perspectives on how their universities were able to incorporate BITB into pre-existing prevention programs and make the program fun and identifiable for students.

The University of Kansas is home to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center whose mission is to “promote social change and the elimination of sexual violence through prevention education, inclusive programming, and campus-wide collaboration”. Their Jayhawks Give a Flock campaign uses the school’s mascot, Jayhawks, to further identify with their students and help students feel they are part of something bigger. This program focuses on bystander intervention which is largely taught through the BITB curriculum that is delivered to all incoming freshmen students at KU each year. 

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The University of Kansas has made bystander intervention a core theme in their sexual assault programming.

After speaking with Dustin, I learned that KU was deliberate with their incorporation of BITB into their prevention program and chose to brand the curriculum. One of the ways in which they did this was by modifying the language to become more identifiable with their target audience – KU students. They wanted to create an accurate narrative of what students were experiencing on their own campus rather than using general scenarios that did not speak to their community. 

For example, BITB uses national statistics to create an understanding of who is affected and who perpetrates sexual assault. At KU, it is important that these statistics be used in a way that is representative of their students. Therefore, they need to address the experiences of sexual assault for people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community, a highly represented community on campus. Dustin explained that it was important to go beyond the “1 in 5” statistic that most are familiar with: “1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives,” (1). To do this, they added additional statistics that highlight how those in marginalized groups are disproportionately affected by sexual assault. By making their curriculum more relevant to their audience, more individuals are represented in the programming, making it more meaningful. 

Like KU, the University of Windsor has also created a prevention program that incorporates BITB. UWindsor's Bystander Initiative is an academic program housed in Women's and Gender Studies, with the mission to shift campus climate, building a community that looks out for each other and does not tolerate sexual violence.  Similar to KU, UWindsor branded the program to fit their needs by addressing the diverse populations found on their campus – this time international students. 

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The University of Windsor adapted content to address the needs of international students.

International students are targeted more often and can experience a higher rate of sexual assault. Because of this, it is important that the scenario section of the BITB curriculum include scenarios that are relevant for their international students. During my conversation with Emily, she explained that domestic social experiences that may be common to American students, such as frat parties and binge drinking, may be completely different for international students. Because of this, the scenarios in BITB needed to be adapted to represent experiences that are more common to the student body at UWindsor. They saw a need for more intersectionality and diversity in the scenarios and made sure to adapt those. They also realized that to better reach their audiences, they need a more diverse group of individuals to facilitate the training to allow students to further identify with the material. 

For example, they prioritized diversity in their facilitator recruitment. They addressed the fact that sexualized violence is not just a woman’s issue by aiming for a gender-balanced staff. They also focused on training their facilitators in cultural competence that would allow their facilitators to engage their audiences in complicated discussions that would allow the program to reach even more. If the facilitators themselves can represent those experiences, then the program can deliver more and reach more students. 

Please reach out Jennifer.Scrafford@soteriasolutions.org for more information on BITB.

(1) Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S .G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., … Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf


Please Share Your Thoughts & Advice

Do you use Bringing in the Bystander? If so, how did you approach incorporating BITB into your existing program? What messages were important for your student body? Have you made changes to the scenarios? What considerations did you make when planning training? Your suggestions will be invaluable to other partner communities!