Bystander Intervention and Social Media

Bystander Intervention and Social Media

So many times when we speak about Bystander Intervention we talk about how to stop something from happening at a bar or party, but Bystander Intervention is more dynamic and diverse than that.

Bystanders are the individuals who witness emergencies, criminal events, or situations that could lead to criminal activity or harm to another. They may have the opportunity to provide assistance, do nothing, or contribute to negative behavior. Bystander Intervention is the act of providing assistance, with tools and knowledge, to help in a stop a negative or criminal activity. Of course individuals should never put themselves in harm’s way, but there are skills that can make bystander intervention less scary and less harmful of a task.

First, one must notice that something is happening and recognize that something is wrong.  Second, they must take personal responsibility and know how they can help.

Know the 4D’s:

Distract– do something that will distract the perpetrator enough so the victim of the behavior can get away safely.

Delegate: If you don’t feel comfortable causing a distraction or confronting the person, find someone who can.

Direct: If it is safe, be direct with the perpetrator. Let them know what they are doing is not ok.

Delay: This tactic is often not talked about, but it’s still a really important strategy.  You check in with the victim of the incident after it has occurred to see if you can do anything to help them.

We may know how to take these tools and use them during in-person situations, but what about Social Media? Social media is becoming such a large part of our everyday lives. Social media can be a platform for connecting and providing positive communication, but just as everything, it can also be used in a negative way.

Recently, Chicago Police announced they had arrested a 14-year old boy in connection with a sexual assault of a 15-year old girl that had been live streamed on social media in March. Not only was this a horrendous crime, but it was said 40 people watched this assault live and never contacted the authorities. 40 people had an opportunity to be active bystanders, but chose not to be.

Although you may not be able to be direct or distract if you see a crime being live streamed on a social platform, you can delegate by stepping up and notify the authorities, including the management of the platform it is being streamed on. Bystander intervention is about taking personal responsibility in creating a community where everyone is supported and safe. It is about creating a culture of empathy and strength. As our communities change with the growth of social media, these platforms deserve our focus in creating safe and empowering places to connect.

Bystander intervention comes in many forms. If you see something you suspect to be a crime on live streams contact the appropriate authorities. If not you, then who?

Call the Sexual Assault Center for more information about how you can be an Active Bystander.  We can be reached at or by calling 615.259.9055. Let’s work together to end sexual violence in our community!

Be in the know about Grooming Techniques

Be in the know about Grooming Techniques

1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18.  When these children are exposed to sexual assault, nearly 90% of the time it is from someone they know.  That means sexual assault almost never occurs from the stranger lurking in the bushes at the park.

We are willingly giving predators access to our children.  These predators can be our family members, friends, parents of your child’s friends, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone else who has access to your child.  Never assume that a person is trustworthy based solely on their profession.  Far too often we hear stories of sexual abuse occurring in the news by people in a variety of professions.  Most recently, there is an Amber Alert issued for a 15 year old girl who is with a former teacher of hers.

However, there are things we can do to recognize the signs of predatory behavior.  By knowing grooming techniques, we can be more vigilant about who we are allowing to spend time with our children.

  1. A child will be made to feel special through extra attention.  A predator will know a child’s likes and dislikes very well.  A predator will try to win over the child by having similar likes.  “That’s your favorite restaurant?  Mine too.  We should go there and grab a bite to eat.”
  2. A child will be isolated in fun activities that require only the child and the predator.  Once the predator knows what a child likes, they can offer to do activities with that child.  A skilled predator will be able to manipulate the child into situations where they must change clothes or stay overnight.  “You wanted to see that movie?  Me too.  We should go Saturday night, but when it’s over it will be late.  You should just spend the night at my house.”
  3. The first touch is often nonsexual.  This is to desensitize the child and begin to breakdown his/her inhibitions.  It may begin as “accidental” bumping or rubbing, and arm around the shoulder, or brushing of the child’s hair.
  4. A sexual predator will touch a child with others around.  The types of touching in this case could be hugs to say hello or goodbye or an arm draped around the child’s shoulders.  The predator will do this to make the child feel that other adults are comfortable with the touching.  Watch how the child reacts to these types of touches.  Does the child look uncomfortable or stiffen their body?  Also, never force your child to show affection to another person if they do not feel comfortable in doing so.
  5. A predator will offer to play games or buy items that the child wants.  For younger children this can be special treats like candy or dessert, but for older children this may be drugs or alcohol.  After a while, the predator will want something in return.  This may be sexual acts or making the child watch pornography.  Make sure if your child is old enough to have internet access, that you are monitoring your child’s email and social networking correspondence.
  6. A sexual predator will be there for your child when they feel no one else is.  Predators will look for children who feel isolated or alone from their friends and family.  They will lend an ear and let the child know they are there for them.  These children seem to be vulnerable, and the sexual predator will be there to fill the void.

Sexual predators typically target children who are vulnerable.  These vulnerabilities may include a child who is unpopular, lacks self esteem, spends time alone, or is experiencing family problems.  The predators will present themselves positively to the child by giving compliments and pretending to share interests and experiences.

Pay attention to the people in your child’s life.  Make a habit of unannounced visits when your child is alone with others.  Last, it is critical that you have conversations with your child.  Make sure they understand the difference between safe and unsafe touches, secrets and surprises, and the qualities of safe people.

Call the Education Department at the Sexual Assault Center for more information about training for parents, coaches, or other adults that work with youth.  We can be reached at or by calling 615.259.9055.  Let’s work together to end sexual violence in our community.

Who is Coaching YOUR Child?

Who is Coaching YOUR Child?

The flowers are beginning to bloom and the days are getting warmer, and that means one thing, spring sports are starting soon. Far too often we hear horror stories of children being sexually abused by their coaches.  We think back to Penn State or most recently the gymnasts accusing sexual abuse by the USA coach.  Sexual abuse can happen to anyone no matter race, gender, or socio-economic status.  But, we can do something about this by having conversations about child sexual abuse.

First, let’s talk to our kids.  

  • Teach anatomically correct names for body parts.  We need to teach children the correct names for their body parts like we would an ear, elbow, or nose.  By teaching this, there is no shame or stigma associated with those parts of their body.  Also, if a child discloses abuse to a trusted adult and uses the correct body part name, that trusted adult can understand exactly what the child is saying.
  • Private body parts are special. Let your children know that anything that is covered by a swimsuit is their private area.  This area is special and no one should be touching or looking at this area except to keep them clean or healthy.  Give them concrete examples about when this is ok.  Some examples may include when an adult needs to change a baby’s diaper, when a parent helps them take a bath, or when a doctor needs to check their private parts.
  • Understand the difference between safe and unsafe touches.  Let children know that there are different types of touches they can receive.  Safe touch examples can include high fives, hugs, and handshakes.  Unsafe touch examples are a pinch, kick, or someone touching their private body parts.  Children need to know their body belongs to them, and to speak up if they receive an unsafe touch.
  • Don’t keep secrets.  Teach your children the difference between secrets and surprises.  Secrets are something that a person wants another person to keep forever, and they could potentially hurt someone.  Surprises, however, are short term and will not hurt anyone.  Give children examples of when surprises are ok.  If daddy buys mommy a necklace for her birthday, that is a surprise we should keep.  If their friend’s mom is throwing a surprise birthday party for their friend, that is something we should not tell either.  Make sure children understand the difference.
  • Know some trusted adults.  Children also need trusted adults to turn to if something happens to them.  Make sure your child has 3-4 people in their trusted adult circle.  Talk to them about who those trusted adults can be and have a trusted adult everywhere your child goes.  Make sure they have someone at home, school, sports, church, and anywhere else they frequent so they always have somewhere to turn.

Next, talk to your child’s coach, school, and league.

  • Ask about background checks.  Most youth serving organizations will conduct background checks before letting adults work with children, but they may not always screen for child abuse.  Encourage them to do so and check fingerprints and references.  Also, ask what kind of training do the coaches receive regarding child sexual abuse prevention.  The Stewards of Children training can be facilitated in person or online.
  • Meet EVERYONE your child will be working with.  Many times we meet the head coach or other person in charge of our child’s extra-curricular activity, but we may not meet the others who assist. Make it a point to ask who all your child will be spending time with and ask to be introduced.  By getting to know everyone, you are sending the message that you are involved and a parent that pays attention.  Perpetrators typically do not choose children who have parents that are actively engaged in their child’s activities.
  • Minimizing Opportunities. Most of the time when a team practices, they are out on a field or court where it is observable and interruptible.  What about that time when they may be in a locker room or have one-on-one instruction from the coach?  Ask the coach how many adults are in the locker rooms with the children observing what takes place.  Ask the coach how they handle one-on-one instruction with a child.  Where does that instruction take place?  Do they ask permission to touch a child before showing mechanical moves.

Speak Up

  • Act quickly.  If you suspect something, stop all contact between your child and that adult. Call the Department of Children’s Services and report the abuse, even if it is just a suspicion.  If it is an emergency situation, call 911.  Do not confront the perpetrator, let the professionals deal with the situation.  And always, err on the side of protecting your child.  Many times we do not want to slander a person, especially if we like them, but we must be diligent about protecting our children.

As we begin to talk more about sexual abuse, we will begin to see a decrease in the numbers of children effected.  We will begin to see people who are more vigilant about who has access to children.  We will stop making excuses about this silent epidemic.

Call the Education Department at the Sexual Assault Center for more information about training for parents, coaches, or other adults that work with youth.  We can be reached at or by calling 615.259.9055.  Let’s work together to end sexual violence in our community.