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Researchers review the barriers to bystander interventions during gender-based violence and examine their impact on bystanders’ willingness to intervene

 

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious problem worldwide as well as a concerning public health issue. Bystanders who witness such acts of violence can intervene and reduce the occurrence of GBV. However, their willingness to do so is often impeded by certain barriers that hold them back. Now, in a new study, researchers systematically review these barriers, uncovering key insights that can encourage effective educational programs for bystanders to step in and reduce GBV.

 

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a public health issue that encompasses acts of violence based on individuals’ sex or gender, such as intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, and violence against women, among others. GBV can cause serious physical and mental harm, ranging from psychological effects to even homicide. In case of acts of GBV in public settings, bystanders witnessing the act can intervene and alleviate the occurrence of such incidences by engaging in swift and prosocial action to minimize the potential harms and risks to victims. Bystanders’ presence can empower victims and suppress the behaviour of perpetrators. However, despite their potential to act in such situations and play a preventive role, their ability or willingness to act may be hindered by the presence of some barriers which prevent their active intervention during the situation.

 

In a previous study, Latane and Darley (1970) proposed a situational model of bystander behaviour to understand the bystander’s engagement to act during situations of GBV. The model proposed various steps experienced by the bystander at the time of violence, such as becoming aware of the situation, identifying it as a problem, taking responsibility, analyzing what to do, and ultimately, acting to prevent the perpetrator from committing the crime.

 

Burn (2009), however, pointed out some barriers which can prevent bystanders from experiencing each step, as suggested by Latane and Darley (1970). These include failure to notice, failure to recognize the situation as a risk, reluctance to take responsibility due to the lack of knowledge and incompetence in addressing the situation. In addition to it, Moschella and Banyard (2021) recently revealed that negative consequences in previous intervening experiences can deter bystanders from intervening again in future. However, to improve the behaviour of bystanders and their ability to act and intervene, it is important to study the mechanisms underlying the barriers which prevent them from intervening in such situations. Despite extensive research, however, the power of these barriers on bystanders’ willingness to intervene is still not well understood, nor compared and prioritized.

 

To bridge this gap, a team of researchers from Korea, led by Dr. Sihyun Park, an Associate Professor at the Department of Nursing at Chung-Ang University systematically reviewed and analyzed the barriers hindering bystander interventions during GBV. “It is evident that the bystanders face some barriers that refrain them from stepping in during an incidence of GBV. To improve the bystander intervention, it is important to identify these barriers, understand their powers on bystanders’ likelihood to intervene, and to develop evidence-based educational initiatives that prioritize the most critical barriers,” says Dr. Park. Their study was published in Trauma, Violence, & Abuse on October 30, 2023.

 

To comprehensively understand the barriers and study their impact, the team conducted a thorough review of existing literature and collected data on how the barriers affect bystanders’ interventions. They used this data to determine the effect sizes (ESs) of each of these barriers, which indicated how strongly the different variables are related in the data. They also explored the impact of bystander population, gender, and types of GBV situations on ESs.

 

Their analysis revealed that the most significant barrier preventing bystanders from intervening was the lack of success in previous intervention attempts. Bystanders, having failed to effectively help the victims, experience negative emotions and become hesitant to intervene in future situations. This finding suggests that future bystander-related programs should focus on mitigating this specific barrier.

 

Moreover, the researchers also found that people in universities and colleges are particularly vulnerable to these barriers, suggesting the need for programs tailored to this population of bystanders. Furthermore, these barriers were more potent in cases of violence against women and sexual assault than in cases of IPV, indicating the need for targeted and intervention strategies.

 

Elaborating further on these findings, Dr. Park highlights, “Our research paves the way for the development and implementation of improved education programs for bystanders supporting a community response which is proactive against GBV.

 

In summary, these findings provide important directional guidance for the future of bystander intervention education programs. While maximizing the efficacy and responsibility of bystander interventions should be aimed, addressing past failures and negative emotions among bystanders can lead to more targeted actions.

 

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Reference

 

Authors: Sihyun Park1, Hyunji Woo1, and Sin-Hyang Kim2

 

Title of original paper: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Bystander’s Barriers to Intervene in Gender-Based Violence and the Role of Failed Prior Attempts

 

Journal: Trauma, Violence, & Abuse

 

 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/15248380231204887

 

Affiliations

 

1­Chung-Ang University, Seoul

2Shinsung University, Dangjin-Si

 

About Chung-Ang University

Chung-Ang University is a private comprehensive research university located in Seoul, South Korea. It was started as a kindergarten in 1916 and attained university status in 1953. It is fully accredited by the Ministry of Education of Korea. Chung-Ang University conducts research activities under the slogan of “Justice and Truth.” Its new vision for completing 100 years is “The Global Creative Leader.” Chung-Ang University offers undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral programs, which encompass a law school, management program, and medical school; it has 16 undergraduate and graduate schools each. Chung-Ang University’s culture and arts programs are considered the best in Korea.

Website: https://neweng.cau.ac.kr/index.do

 About Associate Professor Sihyun Park

Dr. Sihyun Park is an Associate Professor at the Department of Nursing at Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Washington School of Nursing in 2015. She specializes in interpersonal violence and her areas of research interest include intimate partner violence, violence against women, and family violence, approached from a cultural perspective. In recent years, she has dedicated herself to the development of the ‘With-You Education Program,’ South Korea’s pioneering bystander education initiative that addresses intimate partner violence and dating violence. Her goal is to develop a proactive community stance against violence.

Read more: https://scholarworks.bwise.kr/cau/researcher-profile?ep=1250

 

 

 

 

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