Courtney is joined by Akeya Carter-Bozman, WVU’s Prevention Specialist for Title IX & Equity Assurance, to discuss Bystander Intervention. They chat about WVU’s bystander model and the bystander effect, and also talk about some of the barriers that folks may face when it comes to helping out their fellow Mountaineer.


All right, everyone. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I'm your host Courtney Weaver. I'm the director over at WellWVU here at West Virginia University. Once again, I'm joined in our virtual recording booth by another campus professional. Her name is Akia Carter Bozeman, and she is the, Oh my goodness, Prevention specialist for Title IX and Equity Assurance. We are both recording once again from the safety of our own homes as we hear the instructions of our public health professionals and maintain social distancing, uh, and help prevent the spread of Coronavirus. So, Hey Kia, how's it going? Hey Courtney, it's going well.

You know, just trying to maintain in this quarantine life. I was telling a friend the other day, I was like, this must be what people who are serving prison sentences feel like, although my, my apartment is much larger than a sale that you would be in, but I feel like I'm like. A prisoner, my own home right now, because he can't really go anywhere.

It's time. I'm Mike, I'm getting into my throat's getting antsy. We're normally out and about picking flowers and then the parks and can't really do that right now. So it's just maintaining and. Kind of still doing this prevention work from home, which is another interesting feat to do prevention education from the privacy of my own home online.

So, you know, it's a new world out there for sure. Um, so why don't you tell us a little bit about your work at the university. Um, so, um, as you mentioned, I'm prevention specialist over at Title IX and Equity Assurance. We're housed under the division diversity, equity, inclusion. And so what my job is to provide workshops, um, trainings, but also serve as an advocate for students and with students.

And when I say what students, a lot of times in my job, I like to, um, empower students to speak up and stand out. Um, um, you know, a big part of the, it's on us campaign. We've been doing that for the last five years within the division, getting students to realize it's on all of us to keep our campus safe.

Um, and so from that, we, I do bystander consent. Um. Different types of workshops. I work with everyone from athletics to faculty, staff to honors college, just anyone who's willing to sit down and listen on how to become an acting bystander and how to really use our stop act respect model. Awesome. And so actually that's what we're going to be talking about today, a little bit on bystander intervention.

So to start us off, how would you, what is the definition of bystander and then what's the difference between a bystander and then an active or ethical bystander? Okay, so. And, and in reality, we are all bystanders in any given, in every situation we may find ourselves in. So typically, bystanders are defined as individuals who witnessed emergencies, um, harmful events or situations that could lead to harmful events, um, by their presence.

Um, they may have an opportunity to either provide assistance, do nothing, or contribute harm. So when a person has an opportunity to provide assistance that's stepping up, using that stop act, respect model and saying something, either being direct, distracting, or delegating, um, they can do nothing. They may walk away.

They may just like stand around and say, Hey, I'm not gonna say anything, but I'm not going to call for assistance, but I'm not going to get out my cell phone and record. And then there's contributing harm. You know, those are those instances where you see, um, Charlottesville, for instance, that the rallies that happened there, um, between the black lives matter and the, um, pro white.

Nationalists, um, protestors. A lot of what happened was, you know, these people, these black lives matter protesters were there and they were just peacefully protesting. And then you see adjectives from the crowd, from the other income in. And then instead of someone stepping up saying, Hey, we all have a different point of view, we all are entitled constitution.

So our opinion, you see people adding fuel to the fire. And so sometimes by. Pulling out your phone and recording without going to get help or, or delegating someone to be that helpful factor. You're contributing harm or sometimes you join in what's happening, whether it's a sexual assault or an active discrimination or racism or sexism, um, you, you're doing harm by standing, by doing nothing or, or contributing to that harm yourself directly.

And so when folks see that a situation is troubling, how can they intervene? You mentioned already that we use at WVU the stop act, respect model, so I wonder if you could talk to us a little bit more about that and how people can use that framework to intervene safely. Right? Um, so when we ask people to stop acting respect, we're asking them to really stand up and be prosocial bystanders.

And our partnership with bringing in the bystander curriculum has allowed us to provide different levels of education and workshops to faculty, staff, and students. And so we're asking for individuals, um, to intervene in a positive way. And have a positive impact, not a harmful impact. So when we're asking somebody to stop, it's almost like, remember those cheesy commercials from the 90’s about like drugs and stuff where the person would pause, freeze frame three and see kind of like their brain working, that breaking down things that's stopping.

So we want you to really stop and think about, okay, this is what I'm seeing. Let me process it. This is what I need to do. Then we want you to act. We don't want you to delegate. We want you to distract, or we want you to directly intervene. Um, you can directly intervene by just saying, Hey, you know, what's going on?

W how is this happening? Or, Hey, that's not cool. If you see maybe, um, a group of individuals carrying someone upstairs in the party saying, Hey, we're just going to go lay them down because they've had too much drink. It doesn't take more than. Two people or a person to lay someone down. But also why are we taking into a secluded place?

Kind of let's use our brain. And then, um, while we're acting, we want you to make sure that you're remaining safe at the scene is safe, um, and that you're able to safely intervene. If not, that's when campus PD, your Lyft safe app, um, and another, a trusted, mature adult comes into play. And then when we're respecting things, we want everyone to know that everyone sees situations from a different point of view.

Not everybody sees. Um, rape is rape or assault as assault or racism is racism, or sexism is sexism. Homophobia is homophobia or Islamophobia. All the phobias that we unconsciously, and that I'm within Title IX and other areas on campus. And so we want you to respect people's cultures. Their ideals, their traditions, their beliefs, because sometimes it isn't as understanding of the culture.

You know what's okay or what was okay growing up in your home may not be the social norm. Well, we don't know that. If you've never been taught that's not an okay social norm or that's not okay behavior. You can't really get upset with that person, but once a person has that knowledge, knows better, he was able to be opposed social bias that that's when we expect them to stop acting and stuff.

That's great. I really liked that framework though. The one that I've operated from in the past, I haven't always gotten a hundred percent behind it. Uh, observe question, act, and there was always the part of what does question actually mean? Because the observed part, it's, Hey, pay attention. Kind of like that.

Stop. Like knowing there's a problem or recognize when there's a problem and that you might need to step in. But question people often thought that it meant, Oh, well that means like question whoever's involved with like what's going on. And it's like, actually no, that's not what it means. What it means is that you need to, this right.

Yeah. Like what's the worst thing that can happen if I don't intervene? Like, is this actually okay? Um, and then the act obviously goes to that, but I really liked the respect part of that because there are certain barriers to intervening that we'll talk about in just a minute. Um. That. I think that kind of reflects as well.

Uh, so that's, that's great. So why don't people intervene? I've heard of something called the bystander effect. I wonder if you could tell me thanks for that awesome lead in. I love it. So a lot of times it is what we call the bystander effect. Why people don't, don't intervene. And so, um, unfortunately the more people that are involved in a situation or the more individuals around, the less likely someone is calling for help.

Because in my mind, in your mind, Courtney, we're standing in a crowd. You and I as professionals who do this work, you and I automatically know, call 911, do this. We know how to intervene. But we're thinking about just lay people, um, college students who are out having fun or even, um, faculty members who are in a lab and they're all researching together.

And maybe someone makes sense. Sexist comment, you know, um, you would think that, you know, you're like, okay, someone else who's above me is going to say something. Someone else is going to report this. And so a lot of times people don't get involved because they think someone else is going to do something and someone else is going to help.

So for like, after a football game and a large crowd and we see maybe you know, someone. Who's passed out and they had too much to drink or, um, and we see someone carrying them off. It could be their parent, it could be their brother, it could be their sister. But it's, it's decency enough to step up and say, Hey, do you know this person?

And how do you know them? Questioning. Because a lot of times. The person who may be the perpetrator is not going to be to think well enough on their feet to answer those questions that quickly. And so a lot of times I see what the students and I ask students in my workshops, why don't you step up? Why don't you say something?

And honestly, it boils down to fear, social fear. Because socially, you know, I always tell students, and I tell parents when we do our new student orientation when we do these workshops on campus, traverse is being socially accepted is the most important thing to them right now in this stage of their lives.

It's not food, it's not shelter. It's not getting a good job or getting A's in school as much as we would like to think it. But if we're not socially accepted, that is detrimental to us. That is, that is debilitating and to a lot of students. And so. If I know I want to rush a certain organization and I see something happening at a party before I'm even able to rush the organization, I'm not going to say anything because then when I go to rush that organization, they're going to remember I'm the person who went and got, um, first responders.

I am the person who went and told them I'm the PR, so I'm not going to be socially accepted. And I hear that from a lot of the sororities that I interact with in the workshops that I do. I do some female own workshops to make them more comfortable. Um. We call it our sister circle, where I get with them and their sisters, and we have real talk about this, these, these heavy topics that you talk about on your podcast, and a lot of them are like, well, I don't want, we don't want to be known as the organization who's not down and who's not popular.

The bystander effect runs rampant on campus and in the community in different places because a lot of times we're taught to mind your own business. What happens in this house stays in this house. It's a big part of our culture, especially the Appalachian culture. And although we have a lot of students from out of state, we do have a lot of students from within this Appalachian culture that we've, that we live in.

And so sometimes the culture is stronger in those cultures that are built within different organizations or different social groups on campus are stronger, which then kind of feeds and creates what we call our bystander effect. Yeah. I think you see that often in residence life too, where if there are some folks on a floor who may be using substances that aren't allowed and no one says anything because like, well, I don't want to be known as.

That person, even though you might want to be more because you want to be able to be helpful, and a lot of it is, think about it. In high school, they're not talked to about these issues. Most of the young males and females that I've had workshops with on campus have not had proper sex education or even proper education about social interaction and healthy relationships.

There's a feat within ourselves within the Title IX office and a lot of us in prevention. It is. We have to start from the basics. It's not okay if your friend calls you stupid. That's not a friend. And I told girls all the time, good love comes with jewelry. Maybe an edible arrangement, perhaps the Teddy bear, not a black eye, you know, it doesn't come with being demeaned.

And, and even like, even within fraternity and sorority relationships, I cannot call you my brother and sister and I have beat the crap out of you. And then when it's time for you to join my organization, Oh, welcome to the brother. What kind of screwed up family is this? I don't want to be a part of this dysfunctional stuff mess.

And that's what happens. A lot of students don't realize until they're in it. It's kind of like people with Colts, you don't realize you're in a coat until you're in it and you're too far in and you're like, Oh wait, I should have joined this in the first place. You don't see it for me outside looking in until you experience it for yourself.

And so that's why we worked so hard, um, to make sure we tell students about bystander effect and how dangerous it can be, but also how they have every bit of the power lies within them to be able to combat, um, bystander effect in the, in the issues that bystander effect and cause, yeah, it kind of reminds me of like that tale of if you put a frog in boiling water and immediately hops out, but if you put a frog in a pot of water and then start to heat it up slowly and then it gets to boiling, the frog will die cause it'll stay in the pot because it doesn't realize it's getting used to its adjustments.

The temperature actually happens. We adjusted the temperature around us and then we end up in dangerous situations. Um, and so we talked a little about if you know, you're in a crowd, a group of people, you're less likely to help, but what are some of the other barriers to intervention? Maybe like more on a personal level.

Like I see something what might prevent me from actually doing, if I'm by myself, for example. Um, that that is a big barrier that you mentioned being by yourself. It's hard for one person to step up because number one, you don't know the severity of the situation. You don't know these days. People don't fight fair honey.

They got guns, knives, bombs, all kinds of stuff. Um, but also you don't want, sometimes when you're by yourself, you don't know if you can get you in that person to safety. And then another barrier is maybe you've tried to help before. Maybe you've had a friend, especially with intimate partner violence.

Maybe you've had a friend who tried to help before then, that friend who's turned on you and they've said that you're the bad person, that you're doing this and you're making their life miserable. So past experience and keep individuals life experiences can keep individuals from intervening. And again, you got to think about cultures in some cultures, and we are very globalized campus.

A lot of different. Behaviors are acceptable and are okay. And so if in my culture that behavior is not that bad or taboo, I'm not going to see anything. Or if, um, you know, I had a student one time, he was so honest during the workshop, I appreciated him so much and we were talking about intimate partner violence and he was like, well, if I saw somebody beating up on a black queen, I would say something.

I said, well, what about all the other women around campus? He was like, well, they're not my responsibility cause I'm a black male. But that's what he had been taught to zone. And so again, you know, it's not that he doesn't think domestic violence or intimate partner violence is wrong, but his ideal and I, you know, the room erupted in like, Oh my God, like I was a wait, wait, before we attack anybody, remember we're going to be world.

Remember the ground rules. We said, we're going to respect everyone's opinions in this room. I was like, do you hear what he's saying? This is. A cultural norm and belief of his, you cannot fault him for what he believes and what he's been taught. Just like you can't fall. We can't fall each other for things we've been taught.

You only are able to do better. And after the workshop, he was like, Mr. Key. I see what you're saying. It's my responsibility as a male to step up in any situation. I was like, as long as it's safe, you step up. If it's not safe, that is what your lift safe app is for. That is what 911 is for those blue boxes around campus.

Um, the people who run the dorms, this is what you do. You do not intervene when you don't know you're safe. And a lot of times, if you don't know if you're going to be safe or some people don't know what to say, they're afraid they're shy, they're timid. And that's okay. That's their personality. And you know, imagine being in a classroom where you're great, your professor holds the power, whether or not you pass or fail.

And they're being racist or sexist, hold it towards someone. You're not going to say anything because at the end of the day that that professor is not, you know, um, dealt with properly or not disciplined properly comes back and now they have your grade in their hands. No, I'm not going to say anything.

Right? Cause I, I'm here to get an education, especially if I'm a low-income student who's here on a scholarship, the promise or anything like that. And my grades depend on that. I'm not gonna say anything. I may send an anonymous email, but these days there's no such thing, even as an anonymous email. Sure.

I know, I think a lot of students also know how the Title IX process works. Um, and so that's another barrier as well as, because sometimes they think they're going to be in trouble too, and that self-preservation kicks in. And so I'm going to preserve herself and I'm not going to worry about anything else because I don't want to be in trouble.

I don't want to be the person who did this. And it's just, it's a lot of pressure. And I do understand where students come from when they don't. I think they're all very well meaning, especially in the workshops. They all know what to do, but you never know until you're in the situation what you will do or how you will react.

Yeah. I think that's why it's so important to talk about indirect interventions as well. Cause you can always be like, get someone else to help you. Like if you're at the bar or club, like find the bodyguard or get the bartender or something like that. It doesn't always necessarily have to be 911 but there are a lot of different helpers around that.

Can maybe lend a hand and help you out. Um, all right. So in this part of the podcast, we do like to do a little wellbeing snapshot. So do you have any examples of when you've seen the bystander effect in real life. Um, I normally, during our trainings, we facilitate, um, in, are considered ice cream because we tell them consent is a two-way treat, kind of like the 20th.

So it's two ways or more, if that's what you're into. I don't try to judge nobody.

And so, um, this is a new program we recently started using. We piloted this one. Beginning of the semester. Um, and so what happens is we kind of go into the bystander effect. We go into the bystander training, the models and faculty, staff and students are like joining these trainings and they learn everything about it.

We watch videos, we talk and have discussions. We have other hands on activities where we make Pete's consent pizzas. And so then I put their knowledge to the test without them being known that they're tested being tested. And so kind of left there to go have and let their guards down and have everybody get out their ice cream consent card.

And they pick on the card what they're consenting to. And so vanilla ice cream is just plain old vanilla. Missionary style sex. You don't want nothing to extra, nothing, you know, kind of kinky with it. And there's chocolate, which loses it. The more, um, it venture is exhibitionist type of things. Um, and then there's, there's different things on the bar.

And so recently, um, I had an opportunity and an honor to go to Potomac state. One of our sister schools are our sister campuses and work with their president, their university president. And so she had just sat through my entire bystander consent training and I asked her if she would oblige me by being my partner.

She said, yes. I took her sex card and I was like, Oh, so vanilla ice cream. And each topic means something different. It could be, you know, you want to be tied up or you want to have anal sex. It just depends on what you chose on your card. And beside the topping, it tells you, you know, so you don't, you're not picking blindly.

I mean, so she said yes, and I asked if I could blind folder. She consented to the Blackboard and in front of the entire room, I put her card up on the large projector screen so everyone could see what she chose. And I was like, does everybody see what she's consenting to? And I asked, are you sure this is what you're consenting to?

She's like, yeah, I'm down for it. Um, and so I handed her before I blindfolded her a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a few of the topics she had requested. And I said, you know. This'll be so much better if you just trust me and you know, yeah, we just go for it. And she's like, yeah. And I was like, how many drinks have you had this evening?

And she's like, Oh, let me one or two. I was like, okay, you feeling good still? She's like, yeah, I'm doing great. Um, and so then I leaned to another student who was in the room, actually beside the Dean of students, Dean Taylor. And I said, go make me a bowl of chocolate ice cream with the following toppings on it.

And the student did it. Um, to my surprise, cause I'm thinking they're gonna be like, no, that's cause you know, we're simulating how sexual assaults or different things can happen. Something, Oh they're gonna fight me on this. They're going to tell me no side dead silence in the room. No one said anything.

And so she's holding the bowl of ice cream in her hands, the vanilla, and then with the toppings. And I'm like, Oh honey, your hands are shaking. Let me help you. So I was like, let me hold the ball really quick. And so I switch out the bowls. No one still says anything and I'm like, are these, and I'm calling out from her car at the toppings, but I'm putting the opposite toppings of what she consented to in the bowl.

And so when she opens her eyes, she goes, this is not what I asked for. And she looked like indignant, like, Akia, how dare you? I was like. I know you're upset with me. The perpetrator, I, I'm doing my job. I'm the perpetrator. And never told her I was the perpetrator because a perpetrator's not gonna tell you, Hey, I really like having sex with people without consent.

They're not going to say that. Um, but everyone in the room realized and recognized what I was doing. And so in our debrief session, I asked why no one stood up and stepped up. And one student said, well, you're the facilitator. How could we challenge you? Again, if you're the lead person in the organization or you're the person with the power of the professor, or, or the pledge master, whomever you may be, people are not going to challenge your authority.

And then others were like, well, she was still laughing and she was still going along. I said, but she couldn't see anything. She didn't know I was doing to her. She couldn't come. And so part of it was I could see in the student, especially the students faces, they were beating themselves up about why. And I was like, this is what we call.

This is what happens when no one realizes how to be an active bystander or that pro social bystander. And so then we went through the stop act, respect like we rerun. Okay, so this is the moment where you all should have stopped and said, Hey, wait a minute. She just consented. We all saw it. We all heard it.

We've all witnessed it. But no one stopped to think no one acted because anybody could have just said you. I was like, the student who went got me out here. I was like, you could have just said no. I'm not doing that. I'm not participant like she didn't, but now that they know better, they can do better. And then when we started talking about scenarios that they had seen.

On campus, things that had happened at this point, I have removed all the administrators and things from the room because they are still mandated reporters, and so I didn't want students divulging things to me as they often do in their workshops with faculty and admin around. Not that we're trying to hide anything from them, we are not, but students need to feel like they have a safe.

The space to talk and to process their feelings and their thoughts. And afterwards, a lot of cities were like, now I feel more comfortable, I'm going to know what to do. And I don't necessarily have to put myself in it. If I see someone take like in the dorm, you know, and I know that person is not conscious and they're not able to consent, I can go and knock on the artist's door and say, Hey, this is what I observed.

This is what I saw. Do something. I'm like, yes, that's all it takes. Or a simple text message to the other side of the room to your friend who may be standing by the door at the party, say, Hey, don't let those two out. Or, you know, you know, if you see a student or someone who's being targeted because of their race or their cultural identity or their sexual identity, this is how we can step up and this is how we can safely help.

Um, I didn't expect in that, in that. Model. I honestly expected the students in the faculty and staff in a room to step up and say something I did because I'm like, it was less than 20 minutes ago. We just learned all this information. But again, we have to leave room for human error. And as much as we're out here educating and providing, we have to trust that people are going to do the right things even when it's hard to do.

And so a lot of times. I feel like, um, students really are well meaning and people are well meaning, but they just kind of forget or they get that kind of fear in them. Um, I, I do this thing called love notes to the prevention specialist. Not that I want love notes or anything at the end of my trainings, um, especially with the female groups that I train.

And it's astonishing how many unreported sexual assaults we have. Because in their love notes, everybody has the same pin in the same posted. So you don't know if you, if your sister, besides you wrote it or the sister behind you or whomever wrote it. And these are stories that I get day in and day out when I'm doing these trainings with all in all types of groups, in all types of settings.

And so it's definitely happening. I just, I just think as we move forward. Being able to empower people. That is the key piece to this work. Me by myself as much as I want to be the wonder woman at prevention it and where the really pretty cake with the P on it or, or the Title IX symbol, that would be even better.

Right? The Title IX it's not about me. It's about the students, the faculty and staff, and educating them. And so stuff like this, podcasts where people are able to listen to say, Hey, I recall a time that this happened. Now I'm going to know how to stop, act respect, or even tending their interest a little enough to say, Hey, I may want to stop by one of those workshops.

I may want to take one of the virtual workshops. You know, the kids, since it's been 19, I can't see you in person. Well, I'm not seeing you on the screen, um, kind of thing. But I have, I've definitely. In this, um, learned that human error is human error and people are human. And like, I got to take them where they're at.

Um, but it was amazing to see how, what an uproar the students were in afterwards, after the DB or for, they're like and I'm like, exactly. Just because I miss a key of that facilitator. This workshop does not give me the right to do anything to anyone say anything. I want to anyone I can be challenged to.

I can. And even if you don't, you didn't feel comfortable challenging me in that moment. You could have gone to any one of the other administrators in this room and said, Hey, this needs to stop. Even if it's within your own department, you know, going to, and you keep going until someone this is to you. And that's what I tell students.

Even if you're in a crowded nightclub, if you just start standing middle for dance floor and screaming bloody murder at the top of your lungs, someone is going to pay attention. And as soon as they come over and think you're the problem, go, Hey, this is happening over there just to get the attention.

Please don't yell gun, fire, bomb- these calls stampedes we don't want nobody getting hurt. We don't want none of that being you. But we want students to be able to use the resources around them to make sure that each other safe. And we want to make sure our faculty and staff are safe and know what to do as well.

Because sometimes they see things in their classrooms, they observe things and maybe they don't want to believe what they're observing. Cause you want to believe in the ability for people to be good, nice people. That's not true all the time. We know that is his researchers. We know that in the, in the field that we work in.

Um, so we want people to know that there's information out there. Our Title IX website has some amazing information on it. It has some things that you can go to. Um, you can always schedule a training and even though we're not in person right now. I'm still taking dates. I'm still booked.

People, you know, the prevention team is still here for you. We're still here to kind of answer those questions and get this information out there. All right, well, thank you so much again for taking the time to talk to us today. Really appreciate the conversation and hopefully our listeners. Find some nuggets of knowledge that they can apply to their own life.

Uh, so thank you to all those listening and we will catch you next time on Wellbeing Wednesday.