Prosocial bystanders against discriminatory violence

help-164755_960_720Let us ask before we start. How many times have you witnessed some kind of discrimination on the streets of your city this year?  Maybe, if you had known that in over 80% of occasions, less than 10 seconds of intervention would have been enough to prevent the crime; you would have decided to become a prosocial bystander .

The theory behind the spectator, joining psychology with criminology, aims to understand the motivation behind intervention or non-intervention of a spectator, who is, by definition, the witness of an event in which he / she is not directly involved (PHE, 2016).  When understanding this behaviour, in literature, different stages of the decision-making process are identified, firstly, the event must be perceived, then the spectator must interpret it and understand tht the situation is a conflictive one, the next step is to accept responsibility and take the decision to intervene and, finally, the spectator must have the ability to intervene  (Berkowitz, 2009; Banyard, 2011; Powell, 2011).

This process is important especially when theory is being put into practice, as recent studies show that the Bystander Intervention Programmes have a considerable impact on the primary prevention of sexual and domestic violence. In the United States, the theory has allowed for the development of a range of programmes to prevent sexual aggression on university campuses as male violence is interpreted to be, in theory, caused and a consequence of gender inequality and, therefore, effective violence prevention strategies must aim to change attitudes and behaviour rooted in this inequality (Banyard, Plante & Moynihan, 2004).

Afterwards, the United Kingdom also began to develop strategies of primary prevention on this basis to fight against sexual and gender-related violence in universities  and, more recently, against discriminatory violence in the public domain. At the end of 2017, Shamsher Chohan, director of Communities Inc, presented an initiative “Love not Hate” within the project Building Stronger Commuities, at a Zoom session of the Security, Democracy & Cities Conference, held in Barcelona, where the role of prosocial bystanders became fundamental to foresee and combat hate crimes. The programme, with bases in Nottingham and Bassetlaw, offers mechanisms to the public in order to encourage the commitment of “bystanders” with the prevention of discriminatory violence via the creation of a safer environment for all, stimulating social cohesions and the reporting of offences. For this reason, the institution offers free training for all those active members (individuals and organisations) of the community interested in acquiring knowledge and a better understanding of hate crimes (communitiesinc.org.uk, 2017), fundamental when perceiving and interpreting discriminatory acts. Furthermore, via Community Cohesion Activities, the initiative encourages interaction and dialogue, generating cohesion between different communities and stimulating commitment to primary prevention of hate crimes. Finally, the institution trains all those volunteers and organisations who work with people in a situation of vulnerability, to convert them into centres for the reporting of offences (communitiesinc.org.uk, 2017), therefore providing them with the necessary mechanisms to get involved, even if this is a posteriori.

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