USAREUR personnel learn intervention strategies as a means to ending sexual violence

By Staff Sgt Patricia Deal, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Jan. 27, 2010

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Select USAREUR personnel learned intervention strategies as a means to ending sexual violence in a three-day bystander intervention training workshop here Jan. 12 through 14. Taught by the University of New Hampshire, the “Bringing in the Bystander©” training program stresses that “everyone in the community has a role to play in ending sexual violence.”

Robert Eckstein and Angela Borges, Bystander Intervention program facilitators from the University of New Hampshire, sign the pledges of Staff Sgt. Oliver Herrera and Staff Sgt. Joseph Maki, both from the 40th Engineer Battalion in Baumholder. U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia Deal
Robert Eckstein and Angela Borges, Bystander Intervention program facilitators from the University of New Hampshire, sign the pledges of Staff Sgt. Oliver Herrera and Staff Sgt. Joseph Maki, both from the 40th Engineer Battalion in Baumholder. U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia Deal

The “Bringing in the Bystander” training aims to dispel the typical approach to witnessing a risky or potentially risky situation—which is to do nothing. Rather, through presentation and scenario-based training, the course teaches participants strategies that can help them choose an appropriate level of intervention necessary for the inappropriate behavior they encounter.  

Bystander intervention training teaches participants a variety of helping behaviors and actions they can take before, during and after an incident such as keeping resource phone numbers with them, monitoring drinking in social situations, questioning friends’ intentions in potentially risky situations, stopping comments and conversations that are offensive and demeaning, and supporting victims without judging or blaming.

Sgt. 1st Class Stancey Mitchell, victim advocate and sexual assault response coordinator for the 40th Engineer Battalion, Baumholder, Germany, was impressed with the training. “I have to admit that before this training, I had the completely wrong idea about being a ‘bystander’. I thought of it in a negative connotation.  But now I know what a positive thing it can be to get involved and take action,” she said. “Being more aware in a situation and knowing some possible actions you can take to diffuse a situation certainly helps with prevention.”

Using the “train-the trainer” concept, Mitchell and other course attendees will take the skills they learned back to their unit so as many USAREUR Soldiers as possible can benefit from bystander intervention training.

“We are already doing some of the things presented, as Soldiers do take care of Soldiers. But this training went more in depth. For example, I know it will help the Soldiers in my unit to learn how other people were able to handle peer pressure but still manage to head off risky behavior, ” Mitchell said.

Master Sgt. Christopher Mulvihill, a sexual assault prevention training development coordinator from the Joint Multi-national Readiness Center in Hohenfels, said he especially liked the way the course gave him new insight as to the individual’s role in preventing sexual violence. “I’ve taken lots of sexual assault prevention training, but it’s mostly been awareness-type training. So often we tell Soldiers what to do, but don’t tell them how to do it,” he said. “Now I have actual strategies to take back to the Soldiers in my unit which they can apply to their own life. By knowing what to do and how to do it, Soldiers can make an impact.

“This training is unique in that it teaches you how you can help in a variety of ways whether it’s de-escalating a situation or empathizing with a victim. By giving the Soldiers a thorough understanding of what it takes to be a bystander, they can then choose the best course of action for them. Since their actions are so individualized, they are more likely to get involved than not,” he said.

Originally designed for college students, program developers had to adapt the program for military audiences. “While there are many similarities, it was still a bit difficult to make the transition from college campus to military environment,” said Robert Eckstein, Bystander program facilitator from UNH. “But many aspects of the military are conducive to this type of training. The Army values and ethos structure encourages Soldiers to take care of one another.”

The UNH training strongpoint, according to Eckstein, is that bystander intervention training has been proven to have an impact on preventing sexual violence.

This workshop is one of two bystander intervention training programs USAREUR sponsored. Rosalind Dennis, USAREUR sexual assault prevention and response coordinator, explained that USAREUR officials are currently evaluating both intervention programs to determine if one or the other or both are a good fit for USAREUR.

“We are certainly committed to doing what we can to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and this training is yet another example of how we are empowering our Soldiers to battle against sexual assault and harassment,” Dennis said.  “Bystander intervention training is especially important for our Soldiers as it provides them with the necessary skills to take an active role in the intervention and prevention of sexual violence.”

Dennis added that USAREUR efforts support the Army’s “I. A.M. Strong” sexual assault prevention campaign, with its focus switching from reaction to prevention, calling for Soldiers to “Intervene, Act and Motivate”.

“We know this type of training truly does have an impact, so even if we don’t implement either program full force, we know our Soldiers have benefited just from what we’ve done already,” she said.

For more information about the “Bringing in the Bystander” training, visit the projects page at www.unh.edu/preventioninnovations/index.cfm.

For more information about USAREUR Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, visit their website at www.per.hqusareur.army.mil/SA_Home.htm.

For more information about the Army’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, visit their website at www.sexualassault.army.mil.

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