The Bystander Approach: Acknowledging our Responsibility

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The Bystander Approach: Acknowledging our Responsibility

by Yajaira Gonzalez
Community Education and Bilingual Advocate, YWCA Greenwich

There is no one simple solution to ending violence against women and children. However, one of the most efficient ways to work in this direction is to focus on the bystander approach, which calls for a community-wide response. The bystander approach demands that violence against women and children be acknowledged as a prevalent issue, and insists that we each have a responsibility to respond when anyone among us faces danger. A “response” can be as small as telling a friend that his/her sexist joke isn’t funny, as big as calling the police to report a domestic dispute at a neighbor’s house , or anything on the spectrum between the two. Any and all actions can make a difference and impact the lives of others, and we must never turn a blind eye.

Another critical response to violence against women and children is to include men and boys in the conversation. Traditionally, women have been at the forefront of the movement working to end the violence, but seldom do we hear of the proactive men that are stepping forward to redefine masculinity. Courageous and influential men like Joe Biden, Jackson Katz and Joe Ehrmann are the missing pieces we need to solve this pandemic. The onus is on us, as a society, to create an environment where men feel safe to explore their own ideas about masculinity and what they have been taught about what it means to be a man. Hopefully they will feel connected to the issue and obligated to help do something about it.

To start, we need to target future generations by teaching both boys and girls about equality, healthy relationships, identifying and expressing feelings and about how gender is a social construct — not an innate destiny. These are just some of the strategies and tools we can use to work towards liberating the next generation to live in a world without violence.

Yajaira Gonzales has been the Community Educator and Bilingual Advocate for the Greenwich YWCA for more than two years. This past summer, she graduated with a B.A. in International Criminal Justice and a minor in Counseling from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Since working at the Domestic Abuse Services in Greenwich, Yajaira’s focus has shifted to violence prevention, and in June she became part of the Community Education Team, which is primarily focused on preventing teen dating violence and domestic violence. Yajaira is the advisor for the YNet club at Greenwich High School, which addresses the issue of teen dating violence and how students can speak up and support one another.  

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2013 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #ywcaWWV

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