violence survivors and bystanders.

espond to two colleagues by explaining the possible psychological effects experienced by both sexual violence survivors and bystanders.


Hello all,

According to Debnam & Mauer (2021), females are more apt to receive intervention from bystanders when their situation is physical assault, especially when it is severe enough to cause injury. Debnam & Mauer (2021) also found that bystanders are more comfortable intervening when the perpetrator is absent and has an additional support person with them. Many factors weigh in the decision for bystander decision to intervene in situations. Some may fear for the safety of themselves and the victim. Debnam & Mauer (2021) incorporated the theory of planned behavior (TPB), defining this as the adolescent’s thought process to decide whether to intervene. They will intervene if they feel like their peer would be okay with them saying something. If they feared being rejected or looked at as a snitch or overreacting and not minding their business, they would not intervene. Leone et al. (2018) theorize that alcohol plays a significant role in decision-making in bystander intervention.

The bystander intervention theory that is most used is the decision-making model, Leone et al. (2018). With this theory, the bystander recognizes there is a problem, establishes an understanding of the problem, decides if the problem is appropriate to intervene and if intervention is appropriate, chooses the method of intervention, Leone et al. (2018). The probability of using all the steps to this theory correctly and efficiently to get someone help that is about to become a victim of sexual violence is low if the bystanders have been drinking alcohol. In the video scenario, Sherry identified something wrong and the potential danger because she asked her friend if she wanted to go with Eric. Still, she did not move further with other interventions out of fear of the unknown. One way she could have intervened more was to follow them or solicit the assistance of other partygoers. Someone could have physically tried to stop Eric from taking Talia upstairs by blocking them from going upstairs. Sherry could have attempted making a scene, being loud, and bringing more attention to the situation, causing a distraction to interrupt Eric’s actions. I am sure someone else saw him taking a highly intoxicated young lady upstairs. Everyone was focused on themselves, some not realizing there was an issue; others did and chose not to intervene.

2 JO


It seems as though Eric was looking for an opportunity to “score” when he invited Talia and Sharon to the party on Saturday night. He even mentioned “good looking guys looking for good looking girls” and the fact there would be plenty of booze. During the party he sees Talia laying on the couch, clearly intoxicated, saying “I’m drunk, I want to go home”. Instead of helping her get home safely, Eric makes the excuse that he can’t leave the party and gives her more alcohol. He then offers to let her sleep in his bed instead. She is so drunk he practically has to carry her up the stairs. Talia’s friend Sharon notices this happening and asks Talia “Do you want to go with him?”. Eric answers for her, saying “She’s fine, she likes me” and Talia is too intoxicated to do anything but nod and agree. The video ends with Sharon watching Eric lead Talia away. Sharon looks unconvinced that her friend is ok but seems to not know what to do about it (Walden University, 2013-2021).

It is not immediately apparent how intoxicated Sharon is at this point, but clearly, she is less intoxicated than Talia. Alcohol Myopia Theory (Leone et. al, 2017) might explain why individuals fail to intervene in a sexual violence situation. Alcohol diminishes a person’s capacity to notice more subtle clues in their environment (such as Talia’s inability to give a direct answer when asked if she really wanted to go with Eric). Eric’s statement “she’s fine” was more direct and salient in that moment, so that is the cue an alcohol intoxicated brain is more likely to accept.

Debnam & Mauer (2021) present two models that help explain the mindset behind whether a bystander will intervene in a situation of sexual violence. The Situational Model of Bystander Behavior (SMBB) posits that five distinct thought processes directly influence the choice to intervene. Briefly explained, the bystander must notice the situation, feel it is dangerous, decide it is their responsibility to intervene, decide how to intervene, and then take action. Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) is the second model, and it focuses more on the myriad ways a teen’s decision-making process is influenced by their peers. If the teen bystander feels that intervention will be seen favorably by her peers, she will be more likely to do so.

Zastrow et. al (2019) introduce a critical factor that may determine what will be viewed favorably by peers. They state that 80% of rapes on college campuses are perpetrated by assailants known to the victim, and that is often deemed normal, desirable, or at least tolerable for a man to try to force a woman into having sex with him. I am sure Sharon is aware of this social “norm”, at least on a subconscious level, and this might have influenced her decision not to intervene. Debnam & Mauer (2021) list some ways a bystander might intervene, including verbal or physical confrontation of the assailant, and distracting the assailant. These interventions might work in the immediate situation, but changing social norms, providing education, and empowering women to stand up for themselves and each other are all needed to change our “date rape isn’t really rape” cultural attitudes.

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