Bystander intervention program relaunches with open training sessions

Benjamin Din, Digital Projects Editor

Northwestern’s bystander intervention program, Step Up, is on track to relaunch this quarter with open trainings beginning Thursday, which individuals can sign up for.

This quarter, NU is bringing back the workshops, which train students, faculty and staff on safe and effective intervention when they think someone might be in danger in a situation such as alcohol abuse, hazing and sexual assault. The program will be led by Noor Ali, assistant director for social justice education within Campus Inclusion and Community, and Paul Ang, coordinator of men’s engagement at the Center for Awareness, Response and Education.

Previously, those interested in being Step Up-trained used to have to sign up as a group of about 10 people. Although groups can still request workshops, Ali said she realized this excluded individuals who wanted to go through the program.

“We get a lot of people saying, ‘Hey, I want to get Step Up-trained,’ but they don’t have a group,” she said. “We figured, ‘OK, let’s have a training where people can just sign up.’”

Although no trainings have been conducted yet this quarter — the focus has been on spreading the word about Step Up and preparing assessment materials — Ali said students, faculty and staff can now sign up for open trainings.

Thursday’s training, for faculty and staff, will be followed by a Feb. 19 training for students. In an effort to increase the number of facilitators — especially students — to lead Step Up trainings, Ang said there will also be a “Train the Trainer” session for people who have been Step Up-trained and are interested in conducting workshops for others.

“Traditionally we had a lot of faculty and staff that were trainers,” he said. “Ideally, both Noor and I thought it would be great to have some students as well.”

The program, which began at the University of Arizona, was brought to NU in 2012, but was on hiatus for the 2014-15 school year due to a change in staffing.

To prepare for the relaunch, about 10 people who had previously been trained as facilitators went through a “refresher training” in the fall, Ali said.

The trainings are 90-minute sessions split into two parts focused on teaching people how to intervene and practically apply the skills and knowledge learned in the first half through activities such as role-playing. This helps provide the real-life experience that is often missing from online workshops, Ang said.

“Having that in-person practice instead of just intellectualizing it and talking about it in the abstract or in theory, this actually gives people a chance to do some hands-on practice of it and try out a few of the different techniques they might potentially use in a potentially harmful situation,” he said.

Ali said she hopes the opportunity for open trainings will continue beyond the two that are planned, but she added that she is not sure how frequent those would be.

Ali Pelczar, who went through Step Up during peer adviser training, said she has been fortunate to not have been in a situation where she has needed to intervene. However, she said the training she has received at NU has given her the skills she needs to step up in a situation where someone might be in danger.

“You don’t necessarily know when you’re going to be in a situation where having that knowledge is going to be useful,” the Weinberg junior said. “What bystander intervention programs do is teach you how to be aware of those problems and be aware of your own responsibility in helping.”

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