by Blair Donner
On Sunday October 18, 2015, Assistant Director, Laura Luciano of the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance came to visit Chabad House. Her insightful talks focused on bystander intervention, the idea that everyone in the community needs to be involved in order to prevent acts of violence. According to Ms. Luciano, bystander intervention not only builds community ties and sets a universal standard, but also provides for leadership opportunities. If only just one person can stand up their fellow human being in a desperate situation, a countless number of assault cases could be prevented. A solid group of young, Jewish women from the Rutgers community came to welcome Luciano and learn more about how to make a difference.
Assault has many forms. It could be through violent or sexual harassment, but also through words as well. Racists and sexists slurs have deep impacts on the psychology of victims. The malevolent effects can be reduced by simple intervention, which does not necessarily have to be direct and place the bystander in an unsafe situation. For instance, imagine you were in a restaurant and you see someone at a neighboring table inappropriately touch a waitress passing by. While some might be brave enough to confront the perpetrator directly, alternative solutions could include speaking with the manager or comforting the waitress. Clearly, there are many routes to successfully making a difference in the community.
So how does one know when it is the proper time for intervention? There are barriers. Not every situation is right for intervention, or necessarily safe to intervene with. However, if you see someone in a dire situation in which their safety at risk, it most likely a time to intervene. The idea of helping another human being, even if it does not necessarily directly help oneself, is a concept that deeply resonates with Judaism. Kindness to others is an important commandment of the Torah. It applies to Jews, gentiles, plants, and animals. In general, life is of utmost value in Jewish thought. Thus, it is especially the responsibility of the Jewish population to take actions that prevent violence, on campus or anywhere else in the world.
The meeting continued with scenarios posed by Ms. Luciano and potential solutions. In extreme situations, it is advisable to call the police. One service offered by the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance is a 24/7 support system for emergency situations. Staff members will even accompany students to the police station, hospitals, and offer future counseling. Their services extend to all students at Rutgers University. Moreover, she exhibited a video that demonstrated how to prevent sexual harassment. For instance, if you see someone who is intoxicated and resisting advancements, it might be dangerous to intervene directly. Instead, it is better to gather a group’s support.
Chabad House was honored to have Ms. Luciano come speak this last Sunday. It is undeniable that awareness of the potential impact of bystander intervention is of extreme importance. On a college campus, it is unfortunate to admit that these harassment situations take place, but Laura and the team at the Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance provides services for a key step in the right direction.
For those that would like to learn more, please feel free to contact the Office for Violent Prevention and Victim Assistance at 848-932-1181. If you would like to learn more about educational events like this or more about Jewish student life at Rutgers University visit www.ChabadRutgers.com, www.ChabadNJ.org, or call 732-296-1800.