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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
September 23, 2017
Canadian Excellence


Bringing in the Bystander at Laurier

The purpose of Bringing in the Bystander at Laurier is to increase feelings of safety and reduce gendered violence on campus at Wilfrid Laurier University by encouraging members of the campus community to be positive and engaged bystanders. Funding for this project has been provided by the Student Life Levy to the Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG) at the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work.

In 2013/14 Status of Women Canada funded a comprehensive needs assessment on gendered violence for university students to the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region (SASC). The Social Innovation Research Group was commissioned by SASC to coordinate this important project entitled The Change Project. This initiative produced a series of recommendations to create a healthier campus climate by addressing language and behaviour that contributes to reduced feelings of safety (e.g. sexism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, etc.). One of these recommendations is the development and implementation of a sustainable bystander intervention program that trains individuals to overcome common barriers to intervening when gender violence occurs (Bennett, Banyard, & Garnhart, 2013).

As a component of a primary prevention strategy, bystander intervention programs are described by the New York Times as “the best hope for reducing sexual assaults on campus” (Winerip, 2014). What distinguishes bystander intervention from other primary prevention approaches is that bystander approaches impact student attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours related to preventing and responding to sexual violence (Banyard 2011). Unlike sexual assault education, the main purpose of which is to raise awareness and change attitudes about sexual assault, bystander programs engage individuals not (primarily) as potential perpetrators or victims, but rather as potential bystanders to situations involving sexual or intimate partner violence (Burn, 2009). In particular bystander intervention has been shown to be an effective and important prevention strategy to decrease rape myths, increase pro-social bystander behaviour and increase self-efficacy.

The bystander intervention model we have elected to utilize is Bringing in the Bystander (BITB), a program created by Prevention Innovations at the University of New Hampshire. Developed and evaluated by leading researchers and program practitioners in the prevention of gender violence, BITB is an evidenced-based program currently being used as model for several institutions across Canada (Moynihan et al., 2014). BITB has two components: The Train-the-Trainer workshop and the BITB curriculum.

Train-the-Trainer Workshop:

This full-day, interactive, train-the-trainer workshop provides a sustainable way for individuals to implement the Bringing in the Bystander curriculum on their campus. Attendees will gain the skills to facilitate the program themselves, and train future facilitators within the Wilfrid Laurier campus community.

 Bringing in the Bystander (BITB) curriculum:

  • The interactive, researched, and evaluated curriculum uses a community of responsibility approach. 
  • The program teaches bystanders how to safely intervene before, during and after an incident of sexual abuse, relationship violence and stalking.
  • Through in-depth discussion of issues and role-playing, participants come to understand how they play a part in proactively preventing sexual and relationship violence, how they can help survivors get the help and support they need, and how they contribute to the creation of a campus climate that reflects a commitment to safety for all.  
  • The program is customizable to reflect the locations, colloquialisms and culture of our campus. 
  • The program is designed to be presented both as a 90-minute session and in a more comprehensive two session program totalling 4.5 hours.
SIRG will be providing training for staff, faculty and students who are champions in creating a safer campus and interested in delivering the BITB workshops at Laurier campuses. Attending these workshops can be documented in students' Co-Curricular Records.  Training dates will be displayed on our website as they become available.