Cleveland, just one more case in point...
Over the last few years, the bystander model is being hailed across the country as the latest rock star panacea for preventing violence against women and children. But case after case after case demonstrates how the model is bound to fail as long as patriarchal power structures that wield ultimate authority are left untargeted and intact.
During the ten years of horror suffered by the victims of Ariel Castro there are close to a dozen instances where bystanders did exactly what the bystander model calls for. They spoke up and reached out for help on behalf of the victims, only to be rebuffed by sexist police who could care less (see referenced articles below). Granted, after 10 unspeakable years, a bystander was finally able to get help, but even then, the police dispatcher responded to the girl's clearly stated 'ten year imprisonment' as a less than priority call.
The same is true in the 14 years Sandusky was raping children in plain view. In the Sandusky case there had been numerous bystanders who had valiantly sought help. There was the persistent psychologist who reported to police and to Pennsylvania welfare officials. A determined mother who reported to a public school principal and to police. A coach reported to the top university officials. And more.
And every single time, without fail, that's where the bystander model ran head on into the brick wall of patriachal power and broke down. And it was the same story in the Anthony Sowell case where Cleveland police sexist dismissal of people reporting resulted in the murder of eleven women before Sowell was stopped. The same In 18 year captivity of Jaycee Dugard when bystander neighbors had called police. And in the Steubenville rape case when bystander students reported to their coach...case after case after case....
As Easily as a Steamroller Flattens a Flea...
The very people who hold the exclusive power and mandate to stop the violence, - to take over where the bystanders must leave off, - instead use that power to stop the bystanders cold, as easily as a steamroller flattens a flea. Over and over again.
Of course, bystanders should be encouraged to speak out and stand up. By by itself, the bystander model for preventing violence against women and children is a comfortable, safe, non-threatening, shallow, and woefully inadequate strategy.
Preventing violence against women is more akin to toppling a military regime than it is to preventing the flu...
The bystander model for preventing violence against women is adapted from the highly successful public health ‘ecological model’ of disease prevention which seeks to intervene in the social and cultural factors that foster the disease environment.
And therein lies the bystander model's core defect. Violence against women is much more intentionally and maliciously driven than a socially neutral disease. It's much more powerfully entrenched and weaponized than a cultural or social norm. The bystander model ignores the intense concentration of institutionalized patriarchal powers that have been honed and fortified over centuries to actively protect men's assumed rights to violently oppress, subordinate, exploit, and control women. And to effectively retaliate against and punish any who attempt to flip the tortilla in favor of women.
By itself, the bystander model does as much harm as good. At the same time it urges people to speak up, it's very premise continues to minimize the gravity of women's bondage. It carries with it a certain mockery of women's plight, in the same way that the Just Say 'No to drugs campaign obscured the monstrous economic and political forces that drive the drug trade.
Preventing violence against women is more akin to toppling a military regime than it is to merely shifting cultural norms or getting bystanders to speak up. It needs a much deeper analysis, bigger tools, and much better strategies than the bystander model provides. In addition to speaking up, it needs people to understand and to act to dismantle and disarm the patriarchal structures of power.
As long as they are allowed to stand as they are, police, prosecutors, football franchises, religions, politicians, universities, the military, corporate structures and more will remain as impassable roadblocks to most any interventions the bystanders may attempt..
Cleveland Police Reports Reveal Previous Violence by Castro - But No Charges Filed
New details from the decade-long nightmare reveal a true house of horrors and puzzling police incompetence
Cleveland Kidnapping, Anthony Sowell Case Linked by Indifferent Police
Anthony Sowell was sentenced to death in 2011 after raping and killing 11 Cleveland women. Read the shocking details of how that case—much like this week’s escape of three kidnapping victims—raises questions about Cleveland police's failure to follow clues, says Michael Daly.
Ex-Wife Of Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect Said He 'Frequently' Abducted Their Daughters
More on Cleveland Police History of Misconduct and Violence Against Women