About Active Bystander Training Victoria
Incidents of violence or abuse are alarming and finding ways to act when we witness them is daunting.
Creative, community responses to violence can strengthen trust, resilience and safety for all of us.
Active Bystander workshops provide a place to practice safe and effective ways to interrupt violence and provide support and solidarity to those experiencing sexist, racist, Islamophobic or transphobic abuse.
Active Bystander Training Victoria workshops are unique in the depth and range of theory and practice that they draw form. Trainings draw from participant experience and knowledge as well as insights from the Protective Behaviours model, the work of Michael S. Biernbaum (Men Stopping Rape/ Nonviolent Interventions Inc), protective accompaniment theory, LGBTQI Street Patrols, Aboriginal Night Patrols as well as the latest Active Bystander research and practice from around the world.
Bystanders have received growing attention as a form of community violence prevention for several decades. Amoungst efforts oriented towards the prevention of family violence, sexual assault and street harassment, racism and other forms of interpersonal violence, mobilising and training bystanders to prevent and respond to violence or to the situations and factors which increase the risk of violence taking place (‘bystander intervention’), is understood as an important form of primary prevention and is an increasingly prominent strategy.
Bystanders are individuals who observe an act of violence, discrimination, or other problematic behaviour, but who are not its direct perpetrator or victim. Rather, bystanders are onlookers, spectators or otherwise present in some sense. They could be friends, companions, colleagues or complete strangers, depending upon the context.
Bystander research and literature distinguishes between ‘passive’ bystanders, who do not act or intervene and ‘active bystanders’ who take action. Active or ‘pro-social’ bystanders may take action to:
1. Stop a specific incident of violence;
2. Reduce the risk of violence escalating and prevent the physical, psychological and social harms that may result;
3. Strengthen the conditions that work against violence occurring; or
4. Provide some form of support and solidarity to someone who is experiencing abuse.
Bystander Interventions are usually short-term, immediate actions to create safety. They may be part of a wider violence prevention initiative or they may lead to provide ongoing support, but on-the-spot immediacy is the key feature.
The basic idea is that a person, staying within their own boundaries for safety and risk, can act to make a conflict situation visible and prevent or halt the violence that is otherwise 'supposed' to happen.
Interventions are based on the principle that 'We all have the right to feel safe all the time'. Given that many people feel isolated, disempowered and/or emotionally 'shutdown' in the face of abuse occurring, the first step in the training is to help people explore their sense of feeling safe and defining what 'safety' means for us.
Far more than just theory
Many people intervene in situations of violence and abuse in their daily lives already, as parents, teachers, Elders, friends, neighbours, or colleagues.
There is an enormous amount of knowledge and experience in our communities about how to intervene, disrupt and prevent violence and abuse already. Active Bystander Training Victoria aims to support this existing knowledge and help build the capacity of individuals and communities to prevent and reduce violence in all its forms.