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  • Writer's pictureLelly Karen Amunyela

The Bystander's Power to Change the World

From silently watching a fellow citizen getting robbed, to ignorantly witnessing a brutal and violent fight between two minors, the spirit of actively getting involved in ending the sickening nature of already-built violent environments has, by far, gotten worse than ever expected. On a sad note, out of five tragic stories we read in the newspapers every day, a third of these events happen at the ignorance of the people who were present either prior to, during or after the incident.

A bystander is a person who witnesses violent acts like harassment, bullying, microaggressions or any harmful behaviour. An ACTIVE bystander is one who chooses to intervene for the purpose of putting an end to the specific behaviour and helping the affected person(s) get away from the harmful situation. An active bystander does not intervene to immediately change the standing patterns of individual behaviour; the primary objective is to safely diminish the harmful situation.

An active bystander makes intervention a norm, not because they do not mind their business, but because they desire to create a violent-free nation. That is their power to change the world.

It will however be fair to concede that there are situations that can make it challenging to be an active bystander. The barriers to intervention frequently include not knowing what to do, being unsure of whether someone wants or needs help, being afraid of making a mistake or looking bad in front of others, being afraid of being the first to act (everyone assumes someone else will take responsibility), being afraid of making things worse or escalating the conflict for the victim, and being afraid of endangering your own physical safety as well as the safety of everyone else nearby.

In any case, whether we choose to intervene or not, both approaches have risks associated with them.


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