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Spring 2012

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Making a Difference
Stacie Leach, Educational Leadership

Learning How to

Take A Stand poster

What would you do if a friend came to you, divulging that he or she was in an abusive relationship? How would you react; what would you say? What about a friend with depression or alcohol dependency? Every day, we witness situations in which someone makes an inappropriate comment, perpetuates stereotypes, harasses sexually, or is physically violent. As bystanders, what can or should we do? The answer: Take a Stand!

As a graduate student, I reflected upon my undergraduate experiences at NAU as an orientation counselor and resident assistant. I had numerous instances where students came to me and said, "If only someone had noticed or said something earlier." I began wondering if others were having the same issues and decided to assess the student population through two surveys, the NAU Health and Wellness Survey and the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment.

I found that 72.6 percent of students had never received information from the university about how to help another in distress, 91.1 percent of students thought preventing violence should be a priority on campus, and 23.7 percent of students had been in a situation where an intervention was needed to ensure someone’s personal safety in the past year. Obviously there was a need. I began researching best practice programs and implemented "Take a Stand!" through the Health Promotions Office as a product and project of my graduate assistantship. Training is now offered to NAU students twice per month and by request for groups.

Modeled on the University of Arizona’s "Step Up!" program, "Take a Stand!" strives to turn ordinary bystanders into active bystanders. It does this by empowering and enabling them with the skills necessary to intervene in situations that have the potential to become dangerous. Working through steps to (1) notice the event, (2) interpret the problem, and (3) assume personal responsibility, active bystanders learn how to utilize skills appropriate to the situation safely, effectively, and early to prevent escalation.

Decision Chart
See Model Chart

How can we move toward active bystanding?

  • Encourage/acknowledge pro-social, helping behaviors.
    • When you see someone else intervene in a situation that could escalate, offer assistance and commend them after the fact.
  • Increase and optimize the Five Decision-Making Steps.
    • Notice red flags or instances that make you feel uncomfortable.  Be constantly vigilant regarding your surroundings and situations that you are involved in.  Interpret an event that may become dangerous as a problem.  Assume personal responsibility by taking the perspective of all involved.  Have the skills to intervene by preparing what you will say or do. 
  • Reduce inhibiting factors.
    • Beware the impact of inhibiting factors such as the "bystander effect"—i.e., the larger the group, the less likely someone will intervene. Others include conformity or peer pressure and diffusion of responsibility.  Take it upon yourself to "Take a Stand!"
  • Increase awareness and identification of risk factors.
    • Research resources for instances that may arise.  For example, be able to refer another person to a local counseling center, crisis center, or support group. 
  • Increase knowledge, skills, and confidence.
    • Practice, practice, and practice some more.  One does not become a professional active bystander overnight. 

After participating in the training, sophomore Kevin Wright explained, "The training impacted me in many ways, especially in being more observant in the interactions I have with my friends, family, colleagues, co-workers, and residents. Even though this is unfortunate, I have actually experienced a few situations that were going on with people around me that correlated to the topics discussed in the 'Take a Stand!' training. All were resolved in an appropriate manner based on what I learned from the training."

It only takes one person who acts to give permission and strength to others to also intervene. We each have opportunities all day long to make a difference in small ways. Those instances define who we are and can truly make a difference in society.

For more information about "Take A Stand!" or to sign up, visit nau.edu/safe.


—Stacie Leach, M Ed student in educational leadership. Graphics supplied by Leach as well. And we congratulate her for her winning "Take A Stand!" poster in the NAU Assessment Fair competition this year.