Bystander

Students walk through ECU's campus near an emergency Blue-Light phone that can be used to contact ECU's Police Department's emergency dispatch.

East Carolina University’s Department of Student Engagement held its first of multiple bystander awareness programs of the year, “Risk Prevention: Bystander Intervention,” on Oct. 6 that discussed the importance of power-based violence intervention and how to be a responsible bystander.

Brandon Ratliff, former coordinator of Student Engagement and planner of the event, said the program is intended to educate ECU students on power-based violence and the responsibilities students have for their peers on campus. Brian Cavanaugh, director of Health 1000 at ECU, facilitated the event and gave examples of power-based violence related to sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence and more.

The program is intended to encourage students to report instances of power-based violence, Ratliff said, and to empower students with the resources and tips needed to responsibly and safely intervene in dangerous circumstances. He said the program is interactive in order to best inform and engage students.

“Power-based violence is a violence that is rooted in the assertion of power,” Ratliff said. “It’s rooted in control and intimidation, and the intent of that action is to cause harm to someone else.”

Power-based violence is seen on college campuses around the country, Ratliff said, so it’s important to protect other individuals when witnessing a dangerous circumstance. 

At least 50 staff members across campus are trained to assist with bystander intervention, Ratliff said, and ECU’s Campus & Recreation Wellness facilitates a bystander intervention program available for all students. 

Students can be responsible bystanders by being on the lookout for warning signs, Ratliff said, and should be honest about situations they encounter that are harmful to themselves or to other students. He said students should always look to report information to a staff member, peers or Greenville and ECU Police Departments.

“Whether we have a number of cases at East Carolina University, it doesn’t matter. The educational aspect that we’re providing about those things should happen regardless,” Ratliff said. “So in the event if something were to happen, our students are prepared.”

Cavanaugh said in the past, initiatives regarding sexual assault, dating violence and stalking were often aimed at victims and individuals who cause harm. Rather than this angle, he said bystanders who might witness power-based violence are empowered to provide assistance. 

Instances of power-based violence can occur everywhere for students, including bars as well as relationships, Cavanaugh said. He said campus resources such as ECU’s Counseling Center and ECU CARES are available to students, whether they’re a victim or a bystander.

Cavanaugh said he and other faculty are trained by the Culture of Respect’s Green Dot strategy program in an effort made by the university to have trained individuals who can talk with students about the importance of bystander intervention and the effects of power-based violence. 

“This is really just for us, as bystanders, to have an outward mindset and see others as people, see others as people with cares and concerns just like we are. So the whole kind of purpose of this (event) is to help one another,” Cavanaugh said. “We are a community, we are ECU, right? So we need to look out for each other.”

Senior elementary education major Logan Stroud said throughout her four years at ECU, she’s experienced several circumstances where she’s felt uncomfortable regarding her safety. Though these circumstances haven’t jeopardized her physical safety, she said living on The Grid has caused some fear for her and other girls she knows after experiencing attempted break-ins and possible harassment.

A Facebook group “Safety Gals,” intended specifically for ECU female students, Stroud said, has allowed her and her peers a space to share their experiences with stalking, harassment, assault and more that occur on and off the university’s campus. Stroud said she hasn’t had any issues reporting these instances to law enforcement, though she’s read on the group page that police have turned down visiting calls made by her peers due to no harm being inflicted.

If police took the time to visit emergency calls around ECU’s campus that may seem harmless, Stroud said, then it might provide women more comfort during moments of distress and fear. 

“Thursday through Sunday, whenever the bars are open downtown, I feel like a lot of the focus is on intoxicated people downtown and not what’s going on around once you leave that area of crowded people,” Stroud said. “Like seeing girls walk alone and all these scary stories of possibly intoxicated people banging on people’s doors, pulling up windshield wipers and scaring them the next morning, I feel like there needs to be more surveillance around the campus.”

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