Guest commentary by Nick MacKinnon and Jordan Schiemer |
“You see what she’s wearing? She’s practically asking for it.”
“He’s a big guy, he can defend himself. I don’t get why he’s whining about his girlfriend ‘taking advantage’ of him.”
Newsflash- your assumptions aren’t always true. You may never know the whole story and the events in the moment leading to what may or may not be a red dot certainly don’t require your hypercritical remarks or snarky jokes. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful impact on the situation. Whether you recognize it or not, the situation always presents an opportunity for you as a bystander to intervene.
“Why didn’t I step in to stop the fight that got him kicked out of school?”
“Why couldn’t I have been there to protect her from the guy that just wouldn’t leave her alone at the party?”
I know too many girls whose worlds were shattered because they were sexually assaulted at an off-campus party or while studying abroad. I’ve listened to buddies share stories about being pressured into having sex because their girlfriends made them feel like they didn’t have a choice.
These occurrences, whether we like it or not, have all been reactions to hardship. And no, none of us “like” it. That feeling of being helpless, only having the power to react to the harm caused by someone or something else, is a miserable one.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last four years living on this campus, it’s that the University of Portland rallies together in the face of adversity. We always find a way to support one another. That, I believe, is the beauty of this community.
I witnessed it at the candle service below the Bell Tower the night of the Boston Marathon bombings. I witnessed it at a Mass in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher after Katie Chale ’14 was killed in a tragic car accident. I witnessed it these last few weeks during Mass, conversations, and a Beacon article responding to the heartbreaking suicide of Michael Eberitzsch II ’16. All of these are instances in which students sought (and continue to seek) ways to let anyone whose mind has ever contemplated the idea, know that they are loved and not alone.
It’s time for us to commit to one another – a conviction that calls us to be willing to stand up for the safety and well-being of our friends and neighbors with reckless abandon.
Everyone deserves to know that someone will step up to protect them without hesitation; that their voice will be heard in their absence. We need everyone to trust that if they are not present or able to protect a friend or loved one, someone – anyone – will step in to intervene.
We’ve all witnessed this compassion in one way or another on campus, most especially through the Green Dot program. It’s student athletes committing to better prepare themselves for a number of risky situations in which they might have the power to prevent violence. It’s Air Force and Army cadets making a pledge to do all we can to carry and spread the power of Green Dot’s message throughout a military organization which, frankly, has been plagued by an embarrassing number of accounts of sexual assault. It’s the students without any formal affiliation who show up to a Green Dot training by themselves because they, too, want to be prepared to help their roommate, fellow Pilot, or even a complete stranger if given the opportunity.
Next week at the Bell Tower on Wednesday, April 8 at 8-8:30 p.m., Green Dot will be hosting Bringing Light to Darkness: The Power of the Active Bystander. It will be a chance for us, once again, to rally as a community by coming together to celebrate the power of the bystander.
We will stand in solidarity with those who have been impacted by sexual assault, stalking, or dating violence to say, “NO MORE! No longer will I allow you to be treated as less than a human being. You deserve respect, and I will give of myself to ensure you know that.”
This will be our chance to take a stand and proclaim the fact that the active bystander can change the world. Call me delusional, but I’ve witnessed it firsthand. Having seen so many students attend Green Dot training and take the pledge to forever live as an active bystander in response to witnessing the darkness their closest friends have endured, I know that their influence is real.
To be an active bystander is to acknowledge someone’s need for help and to act on it. It calls for listening and believing a roommate’s account of having been sexually assaulted. For some, it’s making that sometimes-uncomfortable comment to a drunken couple stumbling away from a party, offering to walk each of them home. And for others, it’s having the courage to step in to stop a couple’s fight in the grocery store, because you know it’s not awkward – it’s doing the right thing.
Next Wednesday will be our chance to become active bystanders. It will be an opportunity to publicly proclaim our commitment to combatting any form of violence we might encounter for the remainder of our lives.
Together, our attendance will be a demonstration of this community’s commitment to supporting one another. Our attendance will say to the stranger next to us, “I will have your back in the future and I know you will have mine.”
Wednesday will be another step closer towards a world in which everyone is valued. Let’s stand together against violence and declare that enough is enough.
Jordan Schiemer and Nick MacKinnon are Mechanical Engineering majors and can be reached at: