Bystander intervention –interrupting a situation that appears unsafe –can happen on the street, at a party, in a bar. It may prevent a sexual assault or stop someone from making crude remarks about women, perpetuating a rape culture. Bystander intervention is the talk of the University of Wisconsin Madison campus after a sexual assault arrest that has more students, especially men, realizing they no longer can stand by in situations that raise red flags, even if they don’t know those involved, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. A growing movement on campuses, bystander intervention encourages students to “own” a critical role in preventing sexual assault.
The suspended student at the center of the sexual assault case that drew national attention, Alec Cook, was familiar to many students from parties and classes. He’s accused of sexually assaulting five female students. Cook been warned by police to stop making women feel uncomfortable at a campus library, behavior several students have said they noticed and wrote off as “creepy” but harmless. Cook is jailed on $200,000 bail. His attorneys say his actions were consensual sexual encounters. Marc Lovicott, spokesman for the university police department., said the case “shook up a lot of people on campus.” He adds, “Everyone was aware sexual assault is an issue. But when you’ve got an individual you see in class and you can put a face to someone in the headlines, it puts things in perspective that this really is happening and really is an issue.”