The Be More Than a Bystander program is aimed at educating youth to speak up about violence and abuse against women. The concept of engaging athletes in this initiative began in British Columbia in 2011, when the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA BC) partnered with the BC Lions Football Club. Since then, BC Lions spokesmen have been using their platform to speak up about gender based violence, and are showing other men and young men how important it is for them to do the same.
The BC Lions/EVA BC partnership was the first large-scale, sustained Canadian effort to use this approach towards ending violence against women and girls. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have now replicated the Bystander program in partnership with Manitoba Status of Women. Other teams have followed by creating their own take on a gender violence prevention message, such as the Toronto Argonauts working with the White Ribbon campaign.
This latest partnership between Football Saskatchewan and Sexual Assault Services Saskatchewan marks another important and substantial effort where Canadian athletes are speaking up to break the silence on violence against women.
The scenarios in the Options Booklet focus on young men in particular, as bystanders to sexist and abusive behavior, not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators. The goal is to suggest ways that friends, classmates, teammates, and others who are not abusive can interrupt or confront those who are.
If a critical mass of young men from all cultural backgrounds speak up, you will help to create a new climate in your school and community and begin to show other males that disrespectful and abusive treatment of girls and women is not cool, is not “manly”, and is completely socially unacceptable.
The Be More Than A Bystander program is based on a program in the United States called the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) which was first developed by Dr Jackson Katz in 1993 at Northeastern University’s Centre for the Study of Sport in Society.
The MVP model focuses on men, not as perpetrators or potential perpetrators, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abuse taking place around them. In this model, everyone is a potential bystander – including friends, family members, teammates, classmates, colleagues and co-workers.
The heart of the MVP model is dialogue, using real life scenarios that speak to the experiences of young men and women in high schools and universities. The intent of this interactive dialogue is to help create a peer culture where the abuse of girls and women by some boys and men, and the bullying of both girls and boys, is not acceptable.
This Options For Intervening Booklet highlights the role that non-abusive youth can play in preventing or interrupting sexist or abusive behavior by your peers. Its purpose is to facilitate discussion about common situations related to abuse and violence, where young men and women have not had the chance to openly explore what they could do to interrupt such abuse or violence.
In this new climate, rates of sexual harassment, sexual assault, teen relationship abuse, bullying, and all forms of school violence will decline dramatically, as will the amount of unnecessary pain and suffering they cause.