This year, Boston College’s Women’s Center partnered with BC Athletics to introduce the Bystander for Student Leaders presentation, which is aimed at getting student athletes and other student leaders, including resident assistants, orientation leaders, and Freshman League leaders, involved in conversations on sexual assault and prevention.
Previously, the Bystander Intervention Program has given its flagship presentation to any club, classroom, or other organization that invites it. The presentation covers what bystander intervention is, introduces strategies for them to keep peers, and themselves, safe, and identifies many red flags to look out for that could signal danger.
This program is different from the Bystander Intervention presentation that freshmen are required to complete because it stresses the responsibility that students with high social influence have to mold BC into the safest and healthiest environment possible. Through empowerment and education, Bystander for Student Leaders introduces a larger picture of maintaining and improving BC’s social culture.
Alison Quandt, assistant director of athletics, and Rachel DiBella, assistant director of the Women’s Center, worked together to launch the new program.
“There is a community here that is very open and willing and eager to be having these conversations about prevention and response, and that ranges from the administrative level through the student body.”
—Rachel DiBella, assistant director of the Women’s Center
“We were so fortunate to have a partnership emerge, and it was a great way to reach students who were already established in groups and in teams, and really have this as an intentional conversation with students,” DiBella said.
This year, every BC athletic team, aside from the football team, participated in the Bystander for Student Leaders presentation.
DiBella said the target audience has expanded to include students who are visible, recognizable, and have influence over the culture at BC. They are the ones who incoming freshmen will look up to, who will prepare the environments which students socialize in, and who set the tone of the culture at BC for students.
“We explore how student leaders and upperclassmen can set a healthy tone on campus about social norms, about attitudes surrounding drinking and hookup culture and consent and things like that,” DiBella said.
This year, DiBella said, she spoke to about 1,000 students, most of whom were upperclassmen or student leaders on campus.
“It’s a different conversation because it’s about leadership, and not just prevention,” she said.
Reports in recent years, DiBella said, show both an increase in the political conversations centered around sexual-assault awareness and students’ willingness to engage in discussions on the issue of sexual assault.
“There is a community here that is very open and willing and eager to be having these conversations about prevention and response, and that ranges from the administrative level through the student body,” DiBella said. “I’ve seen more students come forward and start asking the important questions and get help for themselves.“
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor