Don’t wring your hands — be an active bystander

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  • Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs
By Sara Poquette
Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

We know the vast majority of individuals in our formations are not committing sexual assaults, but a new military brief suggests that we all have a responsibility to recognize the warning signs and safely intervene in situations that may lead to sexual assault.

Bystander intervention is not easy, because the scenarios may not be black-and-white. For example, if you see that your friend has had too much to drink, it's easy to see the wisdom in taking their keys. It gets more complicated if your friend resents you or threatens the future of your friendship for trying to take control of the situation.

Now consider if your inebriated friend is flirting with someone who shows obvious interest -- and also continues to buy more drinks for your friend. This person assures you that he -- or she, as the case may be -- will take responsibility for your friend, to include providing a ride home. Your friend is readily agreeable with this offer. What should you do?

The Army and Air National Guard sexual assault prevention and response training curriculum gives examples of safe intervention and potential warning signs. Whether or not the person your friend is hanging out with is a great guy, you still want to make sure your friend is safe and can clearly state what she -- or he -- does and does not want to happen later on in the evening. Being an active bystander allows you to safely intervene and ensure you or your friend is safe and their judgment isn't impaired.

While impaired judgment might blur the lines between good and bad choices, the line on non-consensual sex is very clear. Non-consensual sex is when one person does not or cannot give consent. The absence of a "no" does not mean "yes" when it comes to sex, and sex without consent is rape.

One of the myths about sexual assault or rape is that many of the reports are false. In fact, statistics show that false reports account for between two and eight percent of all sexual assault or rape reports.

Another myth has to do with what constitutes sexual assault. Did you know that hitting your friend's genitals as a joke meets the definition of sexual assault?

The Wisconsin National Guard is an organization that does not tolerate sexual assault in any form -- from inappropriate touching or hitting, to pressuring someone to have sex for rank or authority, to having sex when the other person does not or cannot consent. Be an active bystander.

Original content found here.