The Women’s Center at Boise State is endeavoring to shift the focus of rape prevention in the community from victim blaming and risk reduction to bystander intervention.
“Although almost all rapists are men, only a very small percentage of men are rapists,” said Griffin Amanda, a healthy relationships peer educator at the Boise State Women’s Center. “The idea behind bystander intervention is getting the rest of the community to step in when we see something that is demeaning, unsafe or violent towards others.”
According to Amanda, changing this culture of violence starts with changing seemingly insignificant behaviors.
“Society’s tolerance for that’s-what-she-said jokes, your-mom jokes, and other words and actions creates a foundation that normalizes violence against particular groups. If we step in early and stop those behaviors, we can stop people from committing egregious acts later on down the road,” Amanda said.
“Bringing in the Bystander” is a workshop offered by the Women’s Center.
The Women’s Center partners with various classes, organizations and departments on campus to teach community members how to intervene safely when they see unsafe behavior around them.
According to Amanda, it is the community’s responsibility to keep one another safe. By tolerating a culture that allows rape to exist, the community is at fault by making others unsafe.
There are many misconceptions about sexual violence and rape prevention awareness in society.
According to the work of David Lisak, a leading criminal psychologist at the University of Massachusetts, two-thirds to three-quarters of rapes are never reported and there is generally very low accountability for perpetrators.
Intervening with individual perpetrators has not proven to be an effective means of rape prevention because the risk of reoccurring behavior is very high.
The Women’s Center does not meet directly with perpetrators to prevent sexual assault.
“People who are going to commit these acts of violence are just going to do so. That’s why we focus on people who are willing to hear information and think about ways that they may be unintentionally facilitating sexual assault or facilitating people who perpetrate,” Amanda said.
The 2012 Crime in Idaho report stated 72.3 percent of rape victims were victimized at a residence or home, and 82.8 percent of perpetrators were in some way known to the victim.
Statistically, victim blaming and risk reduction are not effective tactics in rape prevention because most rapists are not strangers and most rapes do not occur in parking garages or dark alleys.
Bystander intervention, on the other hand, aims to change the entire culture in which rape occurs by encouraging men and women to watch how they speak and think about sex.
“If we succeed in changing the culture then rapist thoughts are less likely to be in someone’s mind to begin with,” Amanda said.
Jeff Cole, a senior studying English at Boise State, stated he thinks male psychology has to change in order to completely
“One of the unfortunate things about guys’ views on sex is that they think it is an accomplishment, that they have won something. It’s a conquest mentality,” Cole said. “This happens across the spectrum, like in dating, and not just in the case of rape. Given that mindset, as awful as it is, naturally, some guys try to cheat the system in order to win. They break the rules of society to reach that goal. That’s when rape happens.”
Cole thinks men need to be reeducated about their views on sex in American society.
“If guys knew that sex wasn’t a conquest thing or a personal accomplishment, but in fact a shared thing, then I think across the spectrum it would be a more beautiful experience for both parties. Any change in our culture has to be something very fundamental like that,” Cole said.