Let’s Talk About Active Bystanderism

by Emma Tilden

Anywhere is an enchanting, eclectic town with storybook-like cobblestone streets and magical ruins, nestled in a beautiful mountain range that stretches as far as the eye can see. 

But even this idyllic, fairy-tale town harbors a dark side. Predation seeps in late at night in the dark, isolated corners of its world.   

When Indigo, the lead character in upcoming short film, Wishful, leaves a fancy dress party in the town of Anywhere, she is followed and then accosted by two men. Outnumbered, overpowered, and trapped, her options are limited and time is running out. 

You are a bystander; you have the potential to step in before our story reaches its violent end.  Will you do it? 

Written by Katie Carroll and directed by Sebastian Pavese, Wishful, a short film in-the-making, addresses the positive potential of active bystanderism

The promotional video for the short film Wishful, which will premiere at Tropfest.

As a woman who has been in a situation similar to that in which Indigo finds herself, I can tell you that active bystanderism makes a huge difference. In my case, I found myself less isolated than Indigo, and was able, with help from intervening friends, to get out of a poisonous situation.  Many people are not so lucky.  

This is why it’s so important that we discuss active bystanderism. If you think through these types of situations and develop a plan of action, you are more likely to act. 

All it takes is one person willing to step up. 

College campuses are well known as sites of sexual assault. Many schools are trying to combat this by teaching their students about active bystanderism (with a healthy dose of actual, before-the-fact assault prevention as well, of course). 

MIT offers these strategies for being an effective active bystander:

Strategies in the Moment:

  • Name or acknowledge an offense
  • Point to the “elephant in the room”
  • Interrupt the behavior
  • Publicly support an aggrieved person
  • Use body language to show disapproval
  • Use humor (with care)
  • Encourage dialogue
  • Help calm strong feelings
  • Call for help

Strategies After the Fact:

  • Privately support an upset person
  • Talk privately with the inappropriate actor
  • Report the incident, with or without names (only with the consent of the survivor)

Active bystanderism is extremely important. Take some time to figure out how you want to respond if you ever find yourself in the position of being a bystander. 

Also, if you’re able, donate to the creators of “Wishful”! It looks like it’s going to be a great film.  

Images courtesy of theanxioustraveler, 1ms.net and velociriot.org.  

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.