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Bystander intervention workshop challenges inaction

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published August 22, 2013

“This program is about taking people out of a situation where they feel powerless and like sheep and helping them understand that they can be leaders.”
Anna Sotelo-Peryea, violence prevention specialist and public health planner
Wellness Education Services

In times of crisis, nothing is the worst thing a person can do. Unfortunately, in these situations, many people are paralyzed with fear and indecision.

Wellness Education Services plans to battle this inaction through Bystander Intervention Training, a seminar that teaches people how to recognize problem behaviors and safely intervene.

“You don’t have to be directly involved to see that something is going wrong,” says Anna Sotelo-Peryea, a violence prevention specialist and public health planner for Wellness Education Services. “This program is about taking people out of a situation where they feel powerless and like sheep and helping them understand that they can be leaders.”

Bystander Intervention Training is one of the Life and Learning Workshops offered by Wellness Education Services.

Participants learn how to handle a variety of issues, including helping those with eating disorders and preventing domestic violence and hazing. Problems surrounding alcohol are a key topic as well due to the large number of undergraduates using this substance for the first time.

The seminar addresses the bystander effect, a social psychological phenomenon where individuals do not offer help to the victim in an emergency situation when other people are present because they feel the responsibility is shared.

The monthly training is open to faculty and students, and to the public upon request. It has been provided to Varsity Athletics at UB, which includes over 500 athletes, for the last 2 years, and is often requested by local Greek organizations. At the end of the workshop, participants receive a certificate of completion.

The dates for Fall 2013 workshops are:

  • Thursday, September 19, 4 p.m. at 210 Student Union, North Campus
  • Wednesday, October 9, 3 p.m. at 301 Michael Hall, South Campus
  • Thursday, November 7, 4 p.m. at 210 Student Union, North Campus

For information on how to register for Bystander Intervention Training, visit http://workshops.buffalo.edu, or visit http://wellnessed.buffalo.edu to submit a request to bring the training to your group.

The bystander effect is also known as the Genovese syndrome, which is named for Catherine Genovese, who was murdered in 1964 before 38 witnesses who failed to call the police, says Sotelo-Peryea.

The incident was almost 50 years ago, but the everyday dangers women face are still prevalent. On average, one in four women in college will be sexually assaulted, says Sotelo-Peryea. It is the only major crime in the United States where students are more at risk on campus than off.

However, not all statistics are bleak. A recent survey of 5,281 UB students by Wellness Education Services found that nine out of 10 students are aware they have the power to diffuse potentially violent situations by intervening.

“UB may be a large university, but it is a small community,” says Sotelo-Peryea. “Once we recognize that we are all members of the same community, we can learn the skills to make UB a safer, more welcoming place for everyone.”