Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Offers Tips on Ways to Diffuse Situation that Can Lead to Sexual Assault
Fiesta is a time when San Antonians party hearty. So, if a group of girlfriends are out for Fiesta and one is drinking too much and decides to accept a ride home with a man she just met, is there anything her friends can and should do to intervene in this situation to prevent a potential sexual assault?
Shelley Botello, RN, BSN, CA-CP SANE, SANE-A, and program coordinator for the Sexual Assault Response Team at Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital, a campus of Methodist Healthcare, says there is. Bystander intervention is a new philosophy and strategy for preventing sexual assault and it’s gaining momentum as a way to effectively help a friend or stranger who may be at risk. This approach encourages people to identify situations that might lead to a sexual assault and then safely intervene to prevent an assault from occurring. By intervening with a method that de-escalates the situation, such as humor or distraction, a bystander can diffuse problem behaviors before they escalate.
“The girlfriends in our example can intervene and put their friend in a cab or take her home themselves,” said Botello. “They also might intervene earlier when the man offers to buy her another drink—turning the perpetrator away from the opportunity to commit a sexual assault.”
Experts are encouraging the use of bystander intervention because it discourages “victim blaming” and shifts responsibility to both men and women. Also, it encourages individuals to step in when they see people who are not making good choices for themselves or are in potentially dangerous situations.
According to Botello, Saturday is the busiest day for sexual assaults, followed by Friday and Thursday—all prime party times during Fiesta.