Time for a Culture Shift

From walking on Franklin to hanging out with friends we all observe things that seem odd or off. The question is: What do we do about it? Do we keep going on with our own lives? Or do we stop and ACT?

Only 22.6% of UNC students said that they intervened as a bystander after witnessing an intoxicated person at risk of experiencing a sexual assault. Furthermore, of the students who participate in this Campus Climate survey, 77.4% of UNC students who did witness this situation did nothing to intervene.

In a society where we are told to keep to ourselves and mind our own business, it can be challenging to speak up and ACT.

But, ACTing and being an active bystander can save someone’s life.one act

Bystanders play a crucial role in the prevention of sexual and relationship violence in our Carolina community, and getting our culture to shift towards that belief is imperative. A bystander witnesses violence or conditions that perpetrate violence. Bystanders are not directly involved however they have the opportunity to intervene.

The One Act bystander intervention program offers a 3-step approach that can help us ACT in situations that we know are not right.


Asking for help.

  • Your safety is always the number one priority. If you notice something fishy, odds are others around you do too. Ask for help, and remember – your safety is the number on priority—strength in numbers.

Create a distraction.

  • If you see that someone is obviously very uncomfortable you might approach them and say “I think your car alarm is going off?” or “I just lost my phone, could you help me find it?” Both of these examples are ways to create a distraction and provide an opportunity for someone to leave.

Talking directly.

  • Talk to the two parties. Check in with the potential victim. Ask if the potential victim needs to be walked home. If the potential victim is a friend let them know they are too drunk to go home with someone because of the risk of sexual assault.
  • Be direct. “Are you okay?”, “How do you know each other?”
  • Remember to also check up with your friend after they’ve been able to process what happened. Ask them if there’s anything you can do and if they’re okay. J

To help continue building a safe UNC community, sign up for One Act training. One Act will give you “knowledge, skills, and confidence to recognize the early warning sings of violence and take preventative action in your everyday life”.

Watch out, confront, and believe. By taking these steps we can create a safer campus and community with less violence.

Safe at UNC logo.


Video produced by UNC students of UNC students called the “Bystander Experiment” through Interactive Theatre Carolina and One Act.









This post was written by Rachael Hamm, One Act Social Media Intern.

Six Steps for Using Everyday Language to Help Prevent Violence

When you think about how you can help prevent sexual or interpersonal violence, what comes to mind? Learning how to be an active bystander through workshops or trainings like One Act? Keeping your friends safe when partying or socializing? Joining a student organization like Project Dinah? These are all great ways to get involved in violence prevention and make our campus a safer place for everyone!

There is not just one way to get involved or prevent violence, because violence operates on a continuum of different levels, ranging from overt acts to participation in a culture that accepts or normalizes those acts. For example, public health professional Lydia Guy conceptualizes violence as a continuum of overlapping circles, ranging from actions complicit in systems of oppression (like racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, or ableism) to less frequent, more overt acts of violence that most would agree should be treated as violent crimes. The actions toward the “more frequent” end of the spectrum (for example, catcalling or telling racist “jokes”) hold systems in place that make it possible for the “less frequent” violence (sexual assault, rape, or murder) to happen.

            Making our campus safe can start with considering how our everyday language and conversations shape the overall culture that allows or deters violence on our campus. Most examples of language that contribute to violent culture happen frequently and are less noticeable. These ways of communicating not only reflect the culture we live in, but also shape the ways we know how to describe and react to potential situations of violence.

"Languages" by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons
“Languages” by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons

Examples of this kind of language may include:

  • Trivializing assault or other interpersonal violence, such as casually or jokingly using the terms “rape” or “stalking” (“That test raped me” or “I was totally Facebook stalking you earlier”)
  • Language that contributes to the marginalization of a particular group, such as telling racist, classist, or homophobic jokes, using male-based generics (like “all men are created equal”), or other microaggressions (for example, assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual when you ask about their dating life)
  • Language that contributes to the silencing or invalidation of victims/survivors of violence, such as victim-blaming or shaming people for their sexual history, choice, or expression (“what a slut”)
  • Language that conflates sexual and violent imagery, like saying “I hit that,” or someone got “banged” or “screwed,” that normalize the combination of violence and sexuality
  • Language that propagates the myth that men are unable to control their sexual urges (“boys will be boys”)—this is not only insulting to men, but can also perpetuate the permissibility of acting on these urges, without regard to the consent of sexual partners.


            The good news is that we can also use language to help prevent violence – starting today! Here are some ways you can help change culture and make sure people know our campus is a place that does not tolerate violence of any kind.

  1. Be purposeful with your words. Being conscious of the history and meanings of the words can be extremely powerful. It can be helpful to think about whether language choices make light of violence, shame survivors of violence, or contribute to the marginalization of certain groups of people. Make the decision as often as possible to avoid language that contributes to violent and/or oppressive culture.
  2. Keep your friends accountable, too! People may not be aware of how their language impacts violence. Gently pointing out violent or oppressive language from friends, partners, or acquaintances can create respectful and productive dialogue. Depending on the situation and comfort level, this may as simple as saying “hey, that’s not cool/funny,” or pulling them aside to talk later. It can also be powerful to ask others to identify any language that they think is violent, oppressive, or disrespectful from others.
  3. Stand up to oppressive “jokes.” Lately, my favorite way to do this has been simply saying, “I don’t get it… What do you mean?” The person telling the joke may have a hard time explaining!
  4. Use language to create a community of respect. For example, make an effort to honor the pronouns that a person chooses to go by, whatever they may be, or respect others’ agency by asking how they identify rather than making assumptions based on the way they look or act.
  5. Critically examine the media. For example, in a news story covering a sexual assault case, do reporters include unnecessary details — like what the victim/survivor was wearing, or their sexual history? How can phrasing affect the way the public — or the jury — perceives a crime? Overall, how does language affect the way we view the world?
  6. Educate yourself with some further reading! Here are some helpful articles to start with:


If you witness behavior that may cross a line into the territory of harassment or discrimination, check out UNC’s new policy for prohibited discrimination, harassment, and related misconduct for options and resources.

A Different Kind of Abuse: Reproductive Coercion in Abusive Relationships

People often associate intimate partner violence with images of physical abuse.  However more and more research illustrates the prevalence of reproductive coercion in abusive relationships. Reproductive coercion includes contraceptive sabotage (like throwing away birth control pills or hiding them), refusal to wear condoms, demanding unprotected sex, and preventing (or in some cases forcing) abortion.

Often when hearing of an unintended pregnancy or contraction of an STD, folks  blame individuals for not being responsible for their own sexual health.  We need to examine coercion in relationships because often, survivors in abusive relationships have no say negotiating contraceptive use or in the case of female-identified survivors, have their birth control methods sabotaged.

Along with unintended pregnancy increases, abusive, sexually coercive relationships also lead to increased rates of STDs.  Dr. Anne Teitelman is an expert on partner abuse and on HIV risk found that female identified survivors of partner abuse are significantly more likely than others to be diagnosed with an STD.

So what can we do? A joint study by the Harvard School of Public HealthFamily Violence Prevention Fund, and the National Institute of Health found that simply asking young women during clinic visits if they experienced reproductive coercion dramatically reduced the odds of their male partners attempting to force them to become pregnant by 70%.  The study found that participants who were asked about reproductive coercion and then counseled about harm-reduction strategies including switching to longer-acting contraceptives and contacting domestic and sexual assault resources were also 60% more likely to report ending a relationship because it felt unsafe or unhealthy. While this study applied specifically to women in heterosexual relationships, clinicians in the field of sexual health can also ask LGBTQ survivors about contraceptive coercion in their relationship. These questions are important because they identify a solution that can be implemented easily.  By being active bystanders and by increasing education about DV issues, sexual health care practitioners can dramatically decrease reproductive coercion.

We can all work to be active bystanders and intervene when we see someone in trouble.  Often just asking “Are you alright?” or “Do you need to talk?” can be the first step to someone getting the help they need.

If you’re interested in learning more about preventing abusive relationships or how to help a friend in an abusive situation check out safe.unc.edu to register for upcoming HAVEN and One ACT trainings.

Upcoming  HAVEN Training Dates:

October 2 5:00- 9:00 PM (Student)

October 16 12:30-4:30 PM (Faculty and Staff)

October 30 5:00- 9:00 PM (Student)

November 13 5:00- 9:00 PM (Student)

Upcoming One Act Training Dates:

September 26 from 5 pm – 9 pm on North Campus

October 22 1:00 pm- 5 pm

November 8 3:30 pm- 7:30 pm