Cleveland resident Charles Ramsey set an important example for our society to take note of when he heard a woman screaming and decided to act upon her pleas for help. Courageously, Ramsey became a shining example of being an “Active Bystander” when he helped Amanda Berry kick out a locked screen door of the home, ultimately freeing three long-missing Cleveland women who been imprisoned for 10 years.
Twenty three years ago, while attending an Atlanta conference, I too was taken hostage. As I was exiting my hotel room, a knife-wielding man attacked me in the interior hotel corridor. I was forced into my hotel room where I was robbed and sexually assaulted. Police reports later showed my screams were heard by other hotel guests, but no one called security. No one intervened. Essentially, no one “acted” on my behalf.
As the media continues to explore how the Cleveland women’s captivity went undetected for a decade, I’ll take the opportunity to inform about the power of bystanders.
Bystanders represent a large community of people surrounding the progression of inappropriate behaviors, harassment and violence.
Bystanders have a choice: to be active bystanders who speak up and say something, or remain passive bystanders who stand by and say nothing. Although the Cleveland kidnappings represent the extreme, there are a multitude of situations where bystanders can intervene: bullying, when sexist comments or racial slurs are made, harassment, or when witnessing inappropriate advances.
Often, the reasons we don’t interrupt situations in which we perceive conflict or unacceptable behavior include:
“It’s none of my business and it’s not my problem.”
Truth: Violence is everyone’s problem. We are all affected by violence in our communities.
“Maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing.”
Truth: Any kind of violence is a big deal, from screaming at someone to grabbing someone’s arm. If it seems wrong to you, it probably is.
I’m not advocating that people risk their own safety in order to be an active bystander, but ask you to consider these six steps offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technologythe next time you feel something is amiss. And, of course, there is always the immediate assistance by calling 911.
1. Notice an occurrence out of the ordinary
2. Decide “in your gut” that something is amiss or unacceptable
3. Ask yourself, “Could I play a role here?”
If no one intervenes, what will likely happen?
Is someone else better placed to respond?
What would be my purpose in responding?
4. Assess your options for giving help
5. Determine the potential risks of taking action.
Are there risks to myself?
Are there risks to others (e.g. potential retaliation against person being “helped”)?
Is there a low-risk option?
How could I reduce risks?
Is there more information I can get to better assess the situation?
The unexpected traumatic experience of the two powerful bombs exploding at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday shattered assumptions about safety for many, which could lead to and potentially contribute to the development of widespread Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
When I saw the horror on the faces of onlookers as the scenes of chaos unfold on Bolyston Street, it took me back to the attacks of 9/11 and then to my sexual assault and robbery that occurred in hotel Room 939.
Unfortunately, I left my PTSD untreated for 20 years, which ultimately led to anxiety, panic, and fear. Clinical studies suggest that when the stress hormone cortisol remains chronically elevated, it may induce clinical depression, which it did in my case.
Every day on my walk with our dog Gucci, I pass this mound of fertilizer on the edge of a field behind our home.
As we make our way around the mound, that steady verse of “making a mound out of a molehill,” comes to mind. Often during the remainder of my walk I am reminded of the struggles in our lives becoming a mound. “Why?” I ask out loud. And the answer always returns with undeniable truth. We allow ourselves to magnify problems leading to exaggerating the emotional shape of a situation. In truth, we accentuate the negative, instead of the positive.
The next time your life presents you with a mound, look for the possibilities of strident steps toward discovery and recovery. To do so gives us the freedom to choose the good, instead of the bad. Releasing that power fills our lives with hope instead of hopelessness.
My daughter, Allison, (the one in the white jersey), has played soccer since 2nd grade. It’s her passion. As I have taken photos of her battling her opponents during her 12th grade year, I realized there are life lessons to be learned from her mastery on the field.
John Wayne once said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” No matter how fearful they are, bold people take action in the presence of fear. God is our partner and will give us extraordinary strength to accomplish our goals.
Keep your eye on the prize.
Satan works hard to make us lose our focus. He tells us lies like, “You’re going to be a failure.” He even magnifies our past failures to distract us from where we want to go. Instead, think about the confidence God has in you. He will direct your path and even place others in the journey to help you succeed.
Many times in my life I have fallen flat on my face because of suffering and pain. The question is will we give up because of the mishap or draw upon our trust in God to provide us the determination to get the job done. No matter if it takes 100 attempts, God is there cheering on your effort.
Empower Each Other.
There is nothing like the power of sisterhood. As we encourage and support one another, there is nothing that can deter us from reaching our goals when we turn up the estrogen and energize each other. It turns the attitude of “I can’t” into “WE CAN.”
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejg11Bk-Xos&w=420&h=315] The best place for your car keys at night? How about right beside your bed? If you hear a noise outside your home or suspect someone is trying to break into your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies. This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Odds are the burglar/rapist won’t stick after hearing the blaring noise coming from the garage or driveway. So take a moment and test it. See if your car alarm goes off while you are tucked in at night!