BeVocal is designed to address multiple types of harm and enhance an individual's confidence to intervene. The BeVocal initiative seeks to promote intervention as a norm of our community, and in turn change the campus culture. BeVocal is unique, as it is designed to build on the existing expertise of campus partners and unite them by using consistent language, content, and messaging. BeVocal believes that while the issues or type of harm may be different, the action steps to intervention, potential barriers and resources are consistent.
BeVocal Steps to Intervention
What can harm look like?
BeVocal works with partners across campus to address harm, including but not limited to:
*These behaviors may be expressions of racism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, sexism and other forms of systemic oppression.
What is a harmful situation?
Anything that constitutes a negative physical, mental, social, or emotional response, affecting a community, a group of individuals, or a single person
What constitutes an emergency?
Anything that requires immediate or urgent response
Spectrum of Harm
The spectrum of harm refers to three overlapping spheres (Figure 1) of negative incidents in which bystander intervention can be utilized to prevent or reduce harm. Often when people think of moments of harm, they imagine or reflect on imminent harm high risk behavior, such as alcohol poisoning, a physical or sexual assault, an accident with serious injuries or an incident of explicit discrimination is harm we see and experience in the moment. We ask that participants in BeVocal trainings and workshops “zoom out” to think about the culture which enables harm to occur in the first place. This means holding each other accountable for our language and subtle actions that either create a culture of safety and inclusivity or one that may be alienating, oppressive, or otherwise stressful. Similarily we ask that participants in BeVocal trainings and workshops also consider their role in supporting anyone who has experienced harm. Understanding our responsibility to listen and offer resources plays an important role in recognizing harm and our intervention after the fact may prevent future harm from occuring.
Choosing to respond is a balance between the person recognizing harm and quick assessment of the situation. There are a number of common barriers that a person might need to overcome to be motivated and willing to intervene. BeVocal promotes strategies to help reduce these barriers and empower individuals to assume personal and collective responsibility.
Barriers to Intervention
Term: Social Influence
Definition: When an individual who observes other people not intervening in a situation, incorrectly assumes there must not be a problem.
Example:“It looks like something Is wrong, but I don't see anyone else doing anything, so maybe it's not so bad after all.”
Term: Diffusion of Responsibility
Definition: The tendency to discount personal responsibility because others are involved. The more people present, the less one feels responsible to intervene.
Example:"I'm sure someone else will dosomething, so I don't need to."
Term: Pluralistic Ignorance
Definition: When someone thinks everyone else accepts a norm and goes along with it. The belief that you are the minority when you are the majority.
Example:"No-one else thinks this is a problem so it's not a big deal."
Term: Fear of Embarrassment
Definition: Showing concern for bringing negative attention to oneself or others.
Example:"I'll be embarrassed if I do anything."
Term: Fear of Retaliation
Definition: When an individual fears a negative consequence or retaliation if they intervene. This could include fear of physical and/or emotional harm, retaliation, lack of support from superiors for attempting to intervene, and negative reactions or comments from others.
Example:"If I say something, these guys are going to make fun of me or not include me anymore."
Berkowitz, A. (2009). Response Ability: A complete guide to bystander intervention. Chicago, IL: Beck & Co.
Burn, S. M. (2009). A situational model of sexual assault prevention through bystander intervention. Sex Roles, 60(11-12), 779-792.
Motivations to intervention