“Hero” is a word that gets thrown around a lot. It applies to Superman, rock stars, and the police, but now it is time to add a new category to that list. We need to add the title of “bystander” – or at least sometimes.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word “bystander” means “a chance spectator.” In other words, it is someone who just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, being a bystander requires nothing more than being present; however, there are times that being a bystander can mean so much more.
For example, recently in the Metro Nashville Public School System a teacher was caught with inappropriate sexual material of elementary-aged students on his computer. How? He asked a fellow teacher to help him with a computer problem. This fellow teacher ran across this inappropriate material and reports the material to the authorities – stopping this man from continuing his abusive ways. It has been reported that he has over 50 videos from the elementary school he taught at and thousands of sexually-explicit images from other sources. 40 girls were identified as victims through the videos, but thanks to this appropriate bystander, this teacher cannot create more.
In a case that received national attention, two graduate students from Stanford University interrupted and reported a rape after riding by on bikes and seeing a man thrusting his hips against his immobile victim. Their confrontation caused the man to run and then be caught. These guys ended a violent assault.
These bystanders are heroes. They acted, not because they wanted to be thanked or honored, but because it was the right thing to do. They understood the consequences of inaction. They realized that they were the ONLY ones with POWER TO STOP the victimization and they did not ignore the weight of this responsibility. There is every possibility that they were anxious, nervous and maybe even second-guessed themselves, but in the end, they knew what was right AND THEY DID IT. Just like Superman.
But, here’s the kicker. These individuals aren’t Superman (or Wonder Woman). These individuals didn’t fall from another planet as alien life forms with supernatural abilities. These individuals are you and they are me. They are people who had the knowledge of what is right when faced with a wrong, and they dug deep to find the courage to act on it. Very much like what we tell children, they stood up to the bully. They thought about others and they decided to treat others the way they would want to be treated. They did not ignore the wrong and they did not pretend to see the injustice. Instead, they found their voice and they changed the world.
Written by: Valerie Craig, Co-Founder, Tennessee Voices for Victims