Department ofCommunication


Bystander Intervention

Faculty members are working with students to reduce violence through their teaching, creative work, and service.

Communication Department faculty members are contributing to the university’s efforts to reduce violence on campus through their teaching, creative work, and service.

Laura Ellingson and Justin Boren are members of the newly formed Bystander Intervention Committee, which brings together students, faculty, and staff to create a program that will integrate bystander intervention training into the first-year student experience. The committee was created by Gillian Cutshaw, assistant director of the Wellness Center and program coordinator for the Violence Prevention Program. 

All incoming students now view Michael Whalen’s film Can’t Thread a Moving Needle, a docudrama that addresses the complex issues surrounding the culture of sexual violence on college campuses.

Whalen edited and co-directed the film based on the play and screenplay by Barbara Means Fraser of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

After receiving a grant for $150,000 from the Avon Foundation for Women, Whalen and Fraser set out to adapt Fraser's original play into a film. During the summer of 2014, they brought together 20 SCU filmmaking students and a cast of 14 that included nine alumni to produce and edit the feature film. The result is a powerful, and at times difficult to watch, film that asks students to take a stand against a nationwide college culture that can blame survivors of assault and often doesn't do enough to stop sexual violence against women.

The characters and dialogue in the film are real. They were created from over 100 hour of interviews with sexual assault survivors, counselors, bystanders, perpetrators, lawyers, and college administrators from across the country. This brutal honesty confronts incoming students with a harsh reality, but also provides them with solutions. After the screening, members of the Wellness Center lead discussions centered around how to change the campus culture with specific ways to combat and end sexual violence in college.

The film helped inform many of the students in Chad Raphael’s class on Dialogue and Deliberation as they organized a forum to gather student input on how to design the bystander intervention program. A diverse group of more than 40 students participated in the forum, entitled “A Safer SCU.” One of the main challenges the class faced was how to solicit well-informed input from students who came to the forum with different levels of knowledge about the issue. “We had to give them a crash course on understanding and preventing sexual assault by practicing the techniques of bystander intervention,” said Raphael.

Students learned the “Three Ds”: direct action to prevent assault, delegating the job to an authority figure, or distracting the potential perpetrator without confrontation.

Using an issue guide developed by the class, participants then met in small groups facilitated by Raphael’s students to discuss motivations and barriers to intervening, and consider the pros and cons of a range of proposals for the design of the bystander intervention program. The results were shared with SCU’s Bystander Intervention Committee, which will design the program. “One of the best outcomes of the forum was that every student who attended and who is returning to SCU next year expressed interest in helping to implement the program,” added Raphael.



Through the Violence Prevention Program and working with SCU Athletics, a public service announcement was created as part of the Obama Administration's "It's On Us" campaign to end sexual assault and violence on college campuses. Watch video


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