A Bystander (or “witness”) is someone who sees a situation but may or may not know what to do, may think others will act or may be afraid to do something. It’s true that a bystander to domestic violence may witness an actual incident of abuse—but more commonly, a bystander may witness a sexist comment, a victim-blaming remark, or any other word or behavior that can contribute to a culture of violence. The truth is that all of us have probably been bystanders to conversations or behaviors that can contribute to domestic and sexual violence, and more than likely, we have all been unsure about how to speak up, or we have felt afraid or anxious to do so. Learning to recognize these behaviors and to respond appropriately, however, can help to alleviate this anxiety and can enable you to be an active bystander in a way that’s right for you.
If you have witnessed an incident of abuse, or if you suspect a friend is experiencing violence at home, finding a supportive way to get involved may seem overwhelming. We may fear that our instincts are wrong, that we’re being nosy, that we may make the situation worse, or that we’re unqualified to intervene. These are all valid emotional responses to witnessing violence that make it hard to speak up or take action. (Women’s Freedom Center)
As a Bystander, you can:
- Reach out to the victim as a friend: Ask the victim if they need help, want to talk or want to report.
- Make eye-contact: Show them that you are there to help. Show the abuser that you are a witness to what is occurring.
- Create a Distraction: Ring the doorbell or call the person to diffuse the situation.
- Call 911: Seek permission/consent of the victim and call for help.
- Ask how you can help: Do they need medical aid, counseling or a safe place to live? Ask and get help if you can.
- Reach out to someone else: Find someone whose intervention can be more effective, a family elder, local women’s group etc. and request for their help.
- Set boundaries: Do not make excuses for the abuser or otherwise enable them. Express your true beliefs on the matter openly and honestly.
Every donation matters! Right now, the world is facing an unprecedented crisis. You may feel like a few dollars will not make a significant difference, every little bit counts. By banding together to support those in need, all of us can make a positive difference in the world.
Volunteers are an integral part of every community service for the well-being for people and their community. The Domestic Violence Community, its supporting organizations and local government have ability to make a difference in our community and are dedicated to serving our city and its residents. We could not do the work we do without help from our volunteers. Please see the organizations below for volunteer opportunities throughout your community.
Please see the organizations below which accept volunteers.
Fairfax County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
Northern Virginia Family Services (NVFS)
Fairfax County Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court
Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV)