Thirty individuals from Winchester and other towns gathered at Temple Shir Tikvah on Thursday evening, June 8 for a two-hour bystander workshop given by Dan Ottenheimer, Dan Lieber, and Marion Magill, Temple members who have received training from the Quabbin Mediation organization. Quabbin is an organization based in Central and Western Massachusetts that does training in the areas of mediation, communication skills, and intervention in harmful situations.

The workshop included a discussion of factors that inhibit bystanders from taking action, sharing examples of situations that participants had witnessed or been part of, brainstorming possible interventions, and an emphasis on the importance of being an active bystander. During the brainstorming session, the participants broke into five sub-groups. Each group was asked to review a particular “Inhibitor” (a psychological factor that prevents us from taking action), and to come up with ways to overcome or break the inhibitor. The teams came up with many ideas, but one recurring theme is that it is extremely useful to recruit allies.

The trainers also discussed extremely dangerous incidents, such as the recent tragic incident in Portland. They stressed the importance of safety and of continually assessing a situation, but suggested that it is important to not to let unwarranted fear keep bystanders from taking action in situations where there is little or no risk of harm.

A handout from Quabbin concluded with: Bystander acts that stop harm doing to individual targets also stop the changes in a community that encourage harm to others. Active bystanders help develop positive attitudes, behaviors and values in the whole community.