Pursuing a safer campus


The importance of offering Bringing in the Bystander training to societies and across campus

            We have all been there. It’s Saturday night, things are winding down and you see two people leaving the bar or party hand in hand. Maybe they're smiling and laughing or maybe they look a little too drunk to know what’s up. Most of us are under the impression that what ever is about to occur is none of our business; we do not want to be the one’s that judge other people or question their actions. It is in these moments however when checking in with people is crucial, making sure they are cool with going home with someone or that they are comfortable with, whatever else may be going on.

This week I had the chance to sit down with Society Coordinator and third year Human Kinetics student, Sarah Comandante, who told me a little bit about Bringing in the Bystander and the ways she and others are working to spread this initiative across campus.

Bringing in the Bystander is an intervention training program that focuses on training people to be active bystanders as a part of promoting safer and more responsible communities. The training teaches bystanders how to safely intervene in instances where sexual violence, relationship violence or stalking is occurring or is at risk of occurring.

Sarah told me that this training is mandatory for those on campus who are in student leadership roles such as the executives at the Student’s Union, X-patrol, O-crew, varsity athletes and house council members as well as CAs. Sarah and Bringing in the Bystander Coordinator, Margaret Elliot, are hoping to spread these skills to a larger demographic on campus by offering training to society presidents.

Often on busy nights at the Inn, societies are responsible for selling grilled cheese and running the coat check. Thus, they are often the last people that students see on their way home from the bar. This gives them the chance to help to intervene and prevent potentially dangerous situations that may be occur between students who may be intoxicated after a night out.

The hope is that by training society leaders and society members, they will be empowered to step in and make sure that people are comfortable with the situation they are in if there is any external degree of questioning about the nature of the situation. Stepping in and asking people if they are okay when you are questioning a situation may be awkward, but it is important that as a student body we are looking out for one another and, as Sarah points out, it is better for someone to be annoyed with being checked in on than feeling as if they are powerless in a bad situation.

By checking in you may give someone the opportunity to think about the position they’re in and the power to step away from the situation if they wish to do so. We all have nights where we have too much to drink, we all have nights where we lose our friends, we all have nights where we make bad choices, but by having people trained to recognize potentially bad situations we are making our campus as a whole feel safer when they are vulnerable and we, as a collective, have a greater ability to stop assaults from occurring in our community.

Training sessions only take two hours, are held every month and are available and open to all who wish to participate. There is no official registration required just email Sarah if you wish to come to a session. If you can not make an official training day, organizers are open to facilitating private training sessions as well, all you have to do is ask.

Hearing about this initiative was very impressive; as a small town we have the luxury often of feeling extremely safe and protected, however bad situations do occur. We need to be proactive in our pursuits to promote a safer campus environment. Be sure to look into Bringing in the Bystander training and next time you see a situation you are unsure about do not be afraid to check in with people. You never know when you will be the only thing standing in the way of a dangerous situation.


If you are interested in learning more about this initiative or attending a training session, please email Society Coordinator Sarah Comandante at su_soc@stfx.ca.