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Community bystander intervention training offered

A free community training at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County will help prepare community members to assist and/or be a supportive resource if they witness a situation of intimidation.

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“Bystander intervention training can benefit almost anyone because people tend to think that they know how they will respond in different situations, but the reality often differs,” Rhiannon Whalen said.

Whalen, the community education and outreach coordinator for OneEighty in Wooster, will be the presenter for a free community training on Friday, March 24 from 6-8 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County.

The idea behind the training is to help prepare community members to assist and/or be a supportive resource if they witness a situation of intimidation.

Danni Schantz, organizer of the event, said, “People I’ve talked with wanted to do something positive and nonpartisan. People subscribe to all sorts of political beliefs that don’t believe in bullying and harassment.”

A local foundation stepped in to fund the event, and Whalen was brought in to conduct the training for OneEighty. Local as well as nationally reported instances of intimidating situations were the catalyst. “Community members feel as though they are not naturally comfortable stepping in and helping someone that they see being targeted. So the opportunity to practice and do some role playing seemed like the most obvious first step,” Schantz said.

The training is designed to offer bystanders the choice to do something. It’s a plan for practicing ways to help support one’s neighbors in an uncomfortable situation.

“When people are faced with tense or potentially violent situations, their response sometimes ends up exacerbating the situation or they panic and don’t know how to respond,” Whalen said. “The bystander intervention trainings are designed to help individuals think through and practice situations so that when we’re in those tense or panicking moments, we have something to rely back on. The training is meant to help attendees to be better prepared to respond in productive and helpful manners.”

Whalen also will present some suggestions from the Ohio Men’s Action Network. These suggestions will address “approaching others whose communication or actions are potentially oppressive toward groups or communities,” Whalen said.

There is hope among organizers that this kind of community training might be an avenue to opening dialogue among neighbors and be a path toward increased connection and understanding. The event is open to all with an advance RSVP. Anyone who is interested and unable to attend this event is invited to contact Schantz so that interest in future additional events can be gauged.

Beyond the training itself is the idea that the evening offers the opportunity to bring together a diverse group of individuals. “We can come together even if we disagree,” Schantz said. “We can understand each other’s perspectives. Ideally the group will have all kinds of people.”

There are innumerable instances recounted through social media of cases where someone was harassed and bystanders did nothing as well as stories where someone or a group stepped up to offer support. Bystander training can help individuals make the choice to speak up for a fellow human being with an active, conscious decision that comes naturally.

In the midst of a stressful situation it can be difficult to come up with a course of action. Having a repertoire of practiced behaviors can make the difference in one’s ability to act. Sometimes the only action needed is for everyone involved to realize someone is paying attention and that someone cares.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County is located at 3186 Burbank Road, Wooster. The training is free and open to the public. Advance RSVP is required. Child care and refreshments will be provided. For more information or to RSVP, email Schantz at dschantz@embarqmail.com.

Published: March 17, 2017
New Article ID: 2017703179981