Bystander Intervention Training provides Veterans and visitors techniques on what to do if they witness harassment or sexual assault in a VA facility. The free, 30-minute online training explains how to recognize a situation, how to respond and how to get help.

VA maintains a long-standing zero-tolerance policy toward harassment and sexual assault. The web-based course is part of VA’s many efforts to ensure all patients, their families, caregivers, staff, volunteers, and visitors experience a respectful and welcoming environment in all VA facilities. The course empowers and equips individuals with the information and tools necessary to properly respond if they witness harassment or sexual assault.

The training makes it clear that any individual, regardless of gender, can experience or exhibit sexual harassment or assault behavior. Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature. This can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex or gender.

No registration, no personal information

The course is available online for viewing on a personal computer, laptop and most mobile devices like cell phones and tablet.

The training does not require registration, nor does it record personal information. A single click of the “Start Here” button on the course’s homepage is required to begin the course, and the training does not have to be completed in one sitting.

A caregiver, spouse or family member may also find the training helpful to learn to recognize and respond if they witness harassment. The training teaches how to recognize and take positive action in situations of harassment or sexual assault.

The training describes five steps to increase the chance of a successful intervention:

  • Notice the situation.
  • Interpret the situation to decide if it requires intervention.
  • Recognize personal responsibility for intervention.
  • Decide how to intervene.
  • Intervene.

Becoming familiar with these steps increases the chance of a successful intervention and contributes to a welcoming environment at VA.

The four Ds of intervention

Anyone who witnesses harassment or sexual assault in a VA facility is encouraged to use strategies from the Bystander Intervention Training Course to safely take action or report an incident.

Bystander intervention techniques taught in the course include the four Ds:

  • Be Direct – Address the harasser.
  • Distract – Divert attention.
  • Delegate – Find a third party to help.
  • Document – Write down information about the incident.

Learning and practicing these techniques increases intervention effectiveness.

Bystanders can choose a technique that fits the situation and their own comfort level. If the situation feels threatening, they are encouraged to contact the appropriate personnel, like VA police, for immediate assistance.

Participants are encouraged to take a survey at the end of the course to provide feedback on how the training could be improved.

If you notice an incident of harassment, or experience either harassment or sexual assault at a VA facility, report it to a VA employee like the VA police, patient advocate, harassment prevention coordinator or cemetery director. Veterans and other VA visitors can help ensure all VA facilities provide a safe and welcoming atmosphere.

Join us in maintaining a #harassmentFreeVA. Click here to start the training.

By Courtesy the VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office

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Published on Feb. 28, 2022

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