Bystander Intervention Training Program set to expand this year

University District

Sessions being lengthened and improved under Keren’s leadership

Lea Keren, Comm '17.
Credit: 
Supplied by Lea Keren

Since its inception in 2015, the Bystander Intervention training program has grown and thrived on campus. Under the leadership of Lea Keren, the program is set to expand even further.

The Bystander Intervention Training Program was established out of recommendations from the Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Working Group in 2013 and provides 45-minute sessions educating students about concepts like sexual violence and consent.

According to Sexual Violence and Bystander Awareness Student Coordinator Lea Keren, the goal of the program is to contextualize sexual violence within our community, identify barriers that prevent outsiders from intervening and equip students with the skills and confidence to intervene in problematic situations.

Over the summer, Keren is expanding the program into two 45-minute sessions. This structure will improve the program’s intersectional lens and will utilize a new “train-the-trainer” model, Keren told The Journal via email.

“The train-the-trainer program will add more training and support for the peer facilitators. This will help to increase their knowledge and understanding in order to ensure that they are prepared to meet different groups where they are in their learning with respect to sexual violence and provide appropriate resources when necessary,” Keren wrote.

Keren also wrote it would be “the ultimate dream” to have everyone in the Queen’s community trained in Bystander Intervention before they graduate.

“We need to dismantle the culture that blames survivors/victims, engages in rape jokes and sexualizes and dehumanizes students, most often women.”

“In order to get there though, I think we need to foster a culture that is empathetic and thereby supportive of survivors/victims of sexual violence. This is a culture where they can feel heard and validated and where their needs are prioritized in order to ensure they can heal,” she said.

Keren also notes the need to build a culture of consent at Queen’s and to “challenge the way society conceptualizes masculinity,” since sexual violence is about “exercising power in a structure of patriarchal oppression.”

“Though Bystander is only one piece of the puzzle in a strategy to tackle sexual violence on campus, it plays a critical role in ending rape culture and preventing sexual violence,” Keren wrote. 

As the program expands this year, Keren acknowledges that she and her team “will need to ensure that the community sees the value in committing their time to the full [90-minute] version.”

“When students are empowered and motivated to address misogyny or unhealthy relationships, it contributes to a culture where sexual violence of any kind is not tolerated,” Keren wrote.

“Though none of these challenges are unique to Queen’s, with the way I’ve seen the Bystander program embraced, I believe we are in a unique position to address them on our campus.”

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