I woke up this morning to read about another young woman who had taken her life as a result of being raped at a party, having explicit pictures taken and circulated and then being subject to horrendous physical and virtual (on-line) abuse. This is the third such case that had been published in a week. In all cases it appears that the women were first plied with alcohol to make them compliment - something that my gender seems to think is a means of exercising their manhood. It is absolutely not, let's call it what it is abuse, criminal, despicable and a whole host of other adjectives!
As despicable as the act committed by the perpetrators is, I started thinking about the other people at the party. Surely, there were other people at the party who saw what was going on, who perhaps knowingly exchanged glances realizing what was happening but ultimately did nothing, didn't intervene but just stood by and watched not wanting to "get involved in the business of others", or perhaps more honestly fearful of what might happen if they did. How do I know this, because I have been there. I remember in my own youth when faced with bullying at school my aim was to fight back enough so I would be left alone and then steer clear of the bullies, just grateful that when they were beating up others, they were not beating up me. Intervene; not likely, my aim was to stay off their radar!
We, meaning all of us, need to do more than just be horrified each time this stuff happens and be photographed with tears of regret in our eyes; we need to stop it happening in the first place or if it is happening intervene. This stuff will not stop without each of us being prepared to do the right thing, even though it might involve an element of personal cost or personal risk. The recent loss of these three women shows that we can be passive bystanders no more.
That is fine in theory you might say, but how does it work in practice. It works by each of us making a personal "Pledge-to-Protect". This is not something we have to announce or sign a piece of paper for, it is a personal commitment that no longer are you going to stand on the side-lines and watch. If you see situations like this developing, intervene ... Take the potential victim home, call their parents or friends, call the police. If you receive pictures or messages about such abuse, instead of re-tweeting them to others, re-tweet them to the authorities if possible identifying the source or the perpetrators; don't give the perpetrators a place to hide. Above all, take the time to show true compassion to the victim, be a friend. They may well have made a mistake, who of us doesn't, but that doesn't justify looking down at them, sneering at them or adopting a "they got what they deserved" or they "had it coming" attitude. Whatever, they may or may not have done, no victim deserves to be ostracized, isolated and re-abused to the point where the feel they have no alternative but to take their own life.
But all this involves personal risk and time you might protest. That is absolutely right. However, until we all individually resolve to adopt and implement a personal "Pledge-to-Protect", we are going to keep reading about such events, something which I personally no longer have an appetite to do. So if you are really sickened by this stuff, rather than just shake your head one more time, refuse to be one of the "Other People at the Party". Intervene in a positive way to diffuse or prevent a bad situation escalating towards tragic and irreversible consequences, regardless of whether "the party" is a gathering of abuse in a social, work, school or home setting. Please don't remain passive any longer!