Friday, May 6, 2016

The Healthy Dose 005: Bystander Intervention

I discuss a topic that needs far more than 800 words to cover

Note: this piece originally appeared in the Mass Media.

April just ended, which means it’s almost summer!

I know that excites many of you—as it should.

The end of April also means that Sexual Assault Awareness Month has come to an end. That doesn’t mean the education around sexual assault needs to end, either. Since summer is coming up, I feel it’s important to discuss the topic of bystander intervention now more than ever.

The Department of Justice reports that cases of sexual assault increase dramatically during the summer months—which is contributed to people wearing less clothing, being outdoors for longer hours at night, and the increase in alcohol consumption during the summer as well.

I find this information troubling, and I want to be able to prepare you in case you need to intervene in an instance of potential sexual assault.

I came to the University of Massachusetts Boston from UMass Amherst, where I did work with the UMatter at UMass campaign, which stresses bystander intervention as a strategy to combat sexual violence. There are a few programs that focus on bystander intervention training—with Green Dot being the most prevalent—so I am going to borrow from Green Dot, which stresses three D’s of bystander intervention. These three D’s were also the focal point of UMatter at UMass.

The three D’s are Direct, Distract, and Delegate—they are meant to be modes of intervening. You don’t necessarily need to do all three, but perhaps a combination of two, or even just one of these modes can remedy a situation.

Being direct is as simple as stepping into the situation and interrupting by pointing out the problem and engaging participants in conversation about better alternatives.

I often use direct as my mode of intervention by asking, “Is this person bothering you?” or “Is everything okay here?” Or if something is especially distressing, I will say, “That’s not cool!” and then explain to them why.

Being direct is also as easy as standing next to someone so they know they are not alone. Never join in or laugh along. And if a person is mistreated, tell them it wasn’t okay and you’re sorry it happened. And make sure to ask if you can help them in any other way—offering to go for a walk with them is generally a good idea.


Now, some of you might not be completely comfortable calling out problematic behavior, so instead, you can interrupt a risky situation by distracting and redirecting the people involved. This is where some creativity can come in handy, because the goal with a distraction is changing the subject so the potential harm can be diverted.

Distracting someone in a potential harmful situation is as simple as asking an unrelated question about school, a sports game, or to show you where the bathroom is located.

Or, what I like to do is say something positive (like, “Hey, I like your shirt!”) to anyone involved. Distraction is very useful in party situations or on the train.


The importance of the delegate mode is that there must be multiple people around when a potentially harmful situation occurs, like at parties, clubs, and/or concerts.
Essentially, if you can’t intervene alone, get other folks involved. There truly is power in numbers. If you see that anyone else nearby is concerned for the situation at hand, get them involved and call attention to the situation so others will feel more inclined to speak up.

When you have people joining you, actively delegate things for others to do—which is where the other two D’s come in handy, have a couple people direct and some folks distract. You can really make a world of difference by using all three when you have multiple people to support you.

If you are somewhere where there are employees, get someone who works there, explain the situation, and take them to the incident. And if you are on campus, contact public safety, or find bystanders on campus to support you as well.


Bystander intervention does take a great deal of courage and it can be scary to jump into a potentially dangerous situation, but these modes of intervention are meant to be used in situations when violence has not or does not seem to be occurring.

Now, I know that in some situations it might be more difficult to intervene, so always feel comfortable calling 911 or public safety to respond to the incident.

Also, note that bystander intervention isn’t limited to sexual assault or deviancy. It can come in handy whenever you see anyone in harm. Be willing to speak up when you see someone in potential harm.

And if you have any questions about anything related to bystander intervention, sexual assault prevention, or anything else that I’ve covered here, please feel free to reach out to me at, or visit my office in Campus Center 3407.

Be well and take care of each other out there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sad Songs Make Julien Baker Feel Better

I cover one of today's brightest young voices and minds, Julien Baker

Note: this piece originally appeared in The Mass Media.

Julien Baker. Photo by Jose Enciso.

Showing up early to any show can be a little awkward, but last Sunday was not the case. Folks were chatty, enthusiastic, and eager. Perhaps it was the tease of springtime weather hitting Boston.

Perhaps the good vibes in the Sinclair were from the fact we were about to watch one of today’s newest and most vulnerable songwriters perform.

When 20-year-old, Julien Baker, released her debut LP, Sprained Ankle, on 6131 Records last year, it flew relatively under the radar. I only came across it because I follow 6131 on Instagram.

So I checked it out.

By the end of the first song on the album, “Blacktop,” I knew this was a special album. I have now memorized the nine tracks on the album and recommend it to anyone and everyone with ears and the ability to hear.

It wasn’t until Baker was featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk (above) that she really took off and she started selling out rooms across the country. Albeit, my favorite performance came from her Audiotree Live in-studio performance (below), in which she really expanded on her expectations and intentions with music and life—revealing a 20-year-old human being with more maturity and understanding of the human condition than I could ever imagine when I was 20.

I mean, hell, The New York Times just did a big write-up of her as well. At the SAME show we attended, even! (Note: I had my headline chosen before NYT published its story. But check it out!)

Like many others in the crowd, this was my first time seeing the Memphis-native perform her brand of minimalist tunes.

And for this tour, Baker brought along her friend, the equally minimalistic/acoustic, Phoebe Bridgers.
Bridgers is signed to Pax American Records—which is Ryan Adams’ label—as a solo artist, but has played in a punk band called, Sloppy Jane.

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo by Jose Enciso.
What I admired about Bridgers is the unapologetic approach to being a confessional singer-songwriter. I’ve often felt like too many mainstream artists who use songwriters to create their tunes are very disingenuous about their style. But Bridgers wears it like a badge of honor.

Her music is simultaneously beautiful and haunting, which I personally love when an artist can achieve that balance.

“This song is also about being sad and drunk,” Bridgers said to the crowd in a dry voice, signaling for her touring drummer to join her on-stage, to laughs from the crowd. "And despite the drums, this next song is actually sadder.”

Bridgers was a wonderful warmup for the headliner, Baker, who is being touted as a leading voice in the emo revival these days.

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo by Jose Enciso.
"Julien simultaneously inspires me and makes me want to quit music altogether,” Bridgers said before finishing her set.

And then Baker took the stage—the guitar over her shoulder looked larger than her tiny frame, a frame which conceals a monster voice and massive guitar chops.

Baker is very self-aware of her style. Before playing her song, “Brittle Boned,” Baker said, “this next song is optimistic, and I know you don't believe me, but it's true,” to laughs.

There was silence during both sets that night—which to a concert-going veteran, is such a rare experience.

Julien Baker. Photo by Jose Enciso.
No one dare speak as Baker bares her soul with the room.

I saw dudes clutching their chests from the feels they got following each of Baker’s songs, and I just nodded because I felt those feels too.

The biggest moment of the night came during my personal favorite track, “Everybody Does,” when Baker screams, “I know myself better than anybody else.” This was the first moment the crowd took over the show—as there was a resounding sing-along moment. To which, Baker backed away from the mic, laughing and getting visibly stoked on life.

"I’m incredibly self-conscious about my songs,” Baker said following the song. “But you're all here; you didn't run,” a direct reference to the lyrics in “Everybody Does.”

Baker played her entire debut LP and threw in a new tune, “Funeral Pyre,” as well as a cover of Elliott Smith’s “Ballad of Big Nothing,” in which Bridgers joined her in duet. Bridgers had covered “Whatever,” by Smith earlier in the night.

I’m ashamed for not having made the Elliott Smith connection to Baker’s style before that night. But it is a solid representation of her style. Confessional, simplistic, powerful, and polarizing for the listen.

Julien Baker. Photo by Jose Enciso.
After all, Baker performed many shows on this tour while wearing a shirt that read, “Sad songs make me feel better,” which is a perfect homage to what she represents as an artist—and how I personally prefer listening to music.

Finally, followers of Baker’s social media will know that she has an allegiance to Dunkin Donuts, even having a tattoo for the brand. So performing in the land of Dunks was a big moment for her. And it was a big moment for all of us in the crowd, for we bear witness to one of the most authentic and grateful human beings in music today.

PS: Big thanks to Jose Enciso for being an incredible photographer. I'm excited to work more shows with him! Check out his stuff! And if you're in the New England area, I know he is down for photo shoots!