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Upstander Approach

A bystander is a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part. In contrast, an upstander is a person who has chosen to make a difference in the world by speaking out against injustice and creating positive change. The term "upstander" was coined by diplomat Samantha Power and was recognized as an official word in the English language in 2016.  
Prior to 2016 when the term "upstander" was recognized as an official word in the English language, the "bystander approach" described an intervention and prevention model which frames violence as a community issue and focuses both on increasing community members’ receptivity to prevention messages and training and supporting upstander behaviors. In research studies conducted prior to 2016, the term "bystander" is often used to refer to behaviors that we would now consider upstander behaviors.

The upstander approach is unique in that it does not solely target victims or perpetrators of violence; rather, it calls upon all community members to work together to enhance efforts to change broader group and community norms around sexual violence. The upstander model targets all community members as potential upstanders and seeks to engage them in creating solutions. This model
could be used to address and prevent gender-based violence as well as other oppressive behaviors. This coincides with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) public health approach of community responsibility to reduce sexual violence and other oppressive behaviors. Currently, most campus-based upstander intervention programs target students, which are a critical population to target. However, according to the CDC’s social-ecological model of prevention, for upstander intervention to truly be effective it must address the entire campus community, which includes faculty and staff members. Universities have continued to develop and implement initiatives to address gender-based violence and other oppressive behaviors on campus and have recently turned their focus on working to engage faculty and staff in these initiatives. This prevention approach can also be applied to adults in workplace settings as well. 


CDC’s Social-Ecological Model of Prevention

Continuum of Violence

The documented connection between sexual violence and other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, has facilitated the need for more inclusive prevention programming. As Guy explains, sexual violence exists on a continuum of behaviors rooted in systems of oppression, indicating that anti-violence work of any kind must include addressing all forms of oppression. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center concludes that all prevention work is inextricably tied to anti-oppression efforts. The CDC and the American Medical Association have both recently formally recognized racism as a public health threat. The B2U program provides an upstander intervention skillset that can be applied to address and prevent all forms of oppressive behavior. 


Continuum of Violence

Lydia Guy - WCSAP 2006

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