You, Too: How to Keep Helping After #IBelieveYou

Changing that takes action and focus. It takes coalition-building. It takes creation of accountability.

  • Learn How to Become an Active Bystander. This one is on all of us, but it’s especially anyone who is placed in the role of a bystander to violence — people who are observing a casual interaction take place, especially in less high-stakes social contexts. (A friend of mine observed that he wasn’t sure how to handle violence in inherently power-stratified environments like the workplace, which is a very fair observation, and I’ll get to that below.) The potentially helpful role of bystanders, especially in instances of sexual violence, is very well-documented — and so is its corollary the bystander effect, which by definition helps perpetrators maintain a status quo. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center maintains a resource list and information packet for learning how to be an active bystander, as does Partners to Social Change and RAINN. Take some time to read up on what concrete actions are helpful to others in dangerous situations!
  • Learn How to Talk to Survivors. Statistically speaking, you probably know somebody who is a survivor. It’s a good idea to learn emotional first-aid generally in our current political landscape, but at minimum, it’s a great idea to take a few minutes to review resource suggestions on how to navigate assault situations specifically so that you know how to handle it when someone discloses this history to you. (The good news is, if you said “I believe you” yesterday, you are already doing a very important piece of this!)
  • Learn to Spot Attempts to Enlist Assistance to Violence. A systemic structure of sexual violence (or any structure of violence, honestly) relies on complicit assistance from everyday people. Those people are not monsters; they’re just people who aren’t aware what’s up and can be enlisted as tacit support as a result. And sometimes it’s not possible to speak up without taking on substantial risk, especially in our current environment, but you should always be making that conscious choice instead of just not noticing when your silence is taken as support. Take yourself out of the pool of people who are accidentally helping whenever you can — learn to recognize instances where your support is being enlisted indirectly through social interaction. This can be in big ways, but it can be in little ways, too — the stereotypical “women, amirite?” phrase exists for a reason; it’s building consensus and reinforcing the beliefs held by the speaker. No, that person is not right, and it’s okay to tell them so!
  • Go Forth and Do the Things You Learned in the Wild! Listening is an important first step, and learning is an important second step, but ultimately these things are building towards action. Now is the time to put the things you learned into practice when it’s practicable to do so — which is uncomfortable and it sucks, but not as much as people getting assaulted. Several of the resources listed above have concrete suggestions and steps for how to handle specific situations. It’s really, really valuable and important to spend some time figuring out how to integrate them.
  • Call Your Reps, Call Your Reps, Call Your Reps, Reps, Reps. A lot of the systemic changes happening right now are on a giant scale, and that’s big and scary and awful. But it also means that you can help by simply exercising your civic rights as a citizen on issues of policy. Stay attuned to issues like coverage changes to the ACA and the abortion bill in the House, and call when you can. If you can’t call, use resistbot to text faxes. If you can’t do either, stay informed. These things might feel like they aren’t related but they really, really are.

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Kara Hurvitz

Kara Hurvitz

Boots on the ground for social change, one step at a time.