No Innocent Bystanders
- Issue 13
JULY UPDATE 2016
I grew up in a culture where physical violence was seen as a source of respect in my family, neighbourhood and community. It was common practice for my older brothers and their mates to go out of a Saturday night looking for a fight for no apparent reason other than ‘I get all mad and wanna smack someone.’ With tough talk, if they can, and violent deeds if they must, they signal they are persons to be reckoned with. Who, when they are on the receiving end of it, would deny that such an attacker is powerful? And just who would confront him knowing that he is consumed with an explosive sense of inadequacy.
The counter-rage cited in those attacks, combined with norms directing others to mind their own business, escalate the chances that those on the receiving end will retaliate. Ultimately, a community of internalised wrath re-creates an atmosphere of pervasive violence that appears inescapable to those trapped in it.
So how do we change violent tolerant cultures in which physical and verbal abuse is normative? Here’s what I know. Violence almost always involves more than the victim and the perpetrator, it includes the bystander, whether the bystander is there and looks on in horror, says nothing, hears about it from perpetrator or victim, or sees it on the news.
Here’s what I also know, by encouraging passive bystanders to express their fears, then already a whole different situation exists. New possibilities start by men and women understanding the subtle pressures that can cause passive bystander behaviour, such as diffusion of responsibility like ‘It’s not my problem. I’m too busy. I’m not an expert. It’s not our job to cope with this. I might make it worse.’
One particular view that I hear frequently from people is this: ‘Were I in that situation, I would behave in an altruistic, wonderful way.’ What I say is, ‘No, not necessarily. I want to get you in touch with the ‘pressures’ that cause passive bystander behaviour. Then when you feel those pressures, I want that to be a cue that you might be misreading what’s happening right under your nose. The ultimate goal, is of course, to help men and women to effectively and safely call each other out; to confront abuses when they occur.
This is not a mandate to take on the world. It is an invitation to recognise the power of the active bystander in preventing and reducing the impact of family violence and violence against women—in big and small ways!
To find our more about Think Prevent visit our website or,why not volunteer to host an event by completing our online inquiry form
Reminder of July events coming up:
- July 11 - Presentation - the Victorian Family Violence Royal Commission and Faith Communities. Bookings essential. Contact Victorian Council of Churches. Telephone (03) 9650 4511. Email firstname.lastname@example.org See flyer for further details.
- July 14 - Workshop - ACU Conference of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Register here
- July 19 - Workshop - Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Victoria & Tasmania
- July 20 - Planning an ecumenical service to remember the victims and survivors of domestic violence in Australia. Details and registration here
- July 24 - Workshop - St Thomas' Anglican Church Werribee, 2.00-5.00pm. Register here
- July 26 - 'Reconciliation as it relates to family violence and violence against women' - continuing the conversation between Rev Helen Dwyer, the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne Aboriginal Reconciliation Liaison Officer & Dr Ree Boddé
- July 27 - Workshop - Jewish Community Council of Victoria. 9.00-12.00pm, Beth Weizmann Community Centre. Contact details for registration
Violence prevention resources
If you would like to show case the violence prevention work of your faith community or submit any success (or partial success) that you've had as an active bystander upload it here
Think Prevent is edited by Rosemary McCoy and Jill Graham; information is issued by Kempster Consultants. Our editorial, information about events, links, and reports within the e-Newsletter are not necessarily endorsed or supported by the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, its program partners Brotherhood of St Laurence or Anglicare Victoria or the Publisher
For further information contact: Dr Ree Boddé (M) 0450039288. Email: email@example.com