Organizers for “Beyond Bystander” expected a modest turnout for the symposium seeking to challenge and eliminate gender-based violence. But more than 50 people crowded into the Rainbow Inn venue on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to listen to presentations as part of a worldwide initiative.
Organized by the Mountain Communities Alliance Against Gender-based Violence, the local panel presentation and discussion sought to enroll attendees in speaking out against gender-based debasement and violence. Attendees were asked to consider this in a provided handout: “Bystander intervention doesn’t need to involve heroics. Ask yourself: ‘Do my words and actions help my community be a safe place for victims to report crimes against them and deal with the aftermath of their assault? Or, am I contributing [by silence] to a culture that imprisons victims in silence and shame?’”
Panelists offered four possible steps or strategies to counter gender-based violence: One is by being direct, by saying “stop it,” “no” or “that’s not OK.” A second method is to distract in a developing situation, using a distraction to help the potential victim get out of the situation and to safety. A third could be to delegate to others who are present and enroll them in helping to remove the potential victim to safety; and finally, to use a delaying tactic, alerting someone with more authority and then following up to find out the aftermath and if the victim is OK and needs further assistance.
Lead organizers were Father Dan Rondeau and Callie Wight of St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church and Mary Morse of Spirit Mountain Retreat. The event also was endorsed by the Rotary Club of Idyllwild and Soroptimist International of Idyllwild.
Also present were representatives from the Center Against Sexual Assault of Southwest Riverside County as a resource with a 24-hour crisis hotline for counseling, information and referrals at 951-652-8300.
The event was part of a worldwide series of presentations designed to raise awareness about gender-based violence. Said Rondeau, “We are here to participate in this global initiative. No community is immune from violence based on gender. We hope others, like you who are here tonight, will go into the community and speak about this.” Wight added, “The more of us sitting or watching when a critical event is going on, the fewer who will intervene. Learn to become an empowered bystander. Step up, step in and take action with safety.”
For more information about the local initiative, visit www.facebook.com/MCAllianceAgainstGBV, and http://swcasa.org/home.aspx.