Become an ‘upstander’ and make a difference
(Editor’s Note: Homer High School student Zoe Storey writes that she recently found herself frustrated with the teen talk of the September assault and wanted to write a fictional story that displayed a way someone could speak up for their peers in a subtle yet effective way. In the fictional story which follows, she provides a method from the Green Dot program, which trains community members how to intervene when they see violence, including using creative skills to distract people. Homer community members are currently undergoing Green Dot training.)
Filled with joy and covered in glitter, her hair flowed freely behind her with soft, icy white skin showing. Just enough to feel free and liberated yet sheltered enough to be somewhat comfortable.
Sliding into her best friend’s beater, she was ready for a night of carefree play and a break from the pressures of being an upper classman — such as having to start making choices about her life, growing up and the stress of pleasing her parents and teachers. Worrying about her safety was the last thing on Cindy’s mind. This was her time to let go and be young. After all, youth is about living life, and taking risks, isn’t it?
The noises made by tires screeching around fast corners and Ke$ha blasting from the cheap stereo system didn’t seem to bother the young girls. They were on their way to pick up some of the crew and head to Jason’s house. Parents were out of town and everyone was expected to be there.
The pungent smell of cheap beer and hard liquor swarmed the girls as they entered Jason’s. The loud, pumping music could be heard from down the block and tons of cars were taking up the entire driveway. Brunette, blonde, tall and built jocks met the girls at the door, offering beers and shots. Cindy was the first to grab not one but a few.
Hours go by and the party starts to get going. Everyone’s feeling relaxed and letting their guard down. Cindy couldn’t have felt more comfortable, for she was partying with the kids she played with in diapers, the kids her parents loved, the kids who always had her back, and most importantly, the kids she trusted.
At this point Cindy is far from thinking clearly and her words are slurring. Dancing around on her tip toes, she feels like a star floating across the night sky.
A couple of her fellow male classmates have been eyeing her for a while now and are ready to make their move. They, too, have had too much to drink. They approach Cindy and start making flattering comments to her, quickly moving from flattery to demeaning.
The boys move in closer to Cindy. She starts to sweat. She’s known these boys since grade school and for the first time ever they are making her feel incredibly uncomfortable. Cindy tells them to back off and tries to walk around them, her head spinning and unable to understand what is going on.
The boys act as brick walls; they do not allow her to move past them and have her cornered.
Cindy is scared, shaking and crying now. The boys are starting to make comments about taking her upstairs, and people from the party are starting to watch. There are whispers in the crowd; however, no one in particular is too concerned and continues to party.
One of the boys puts his hand on Cindy and the other kisses her cheek and they are whispering things to her. Cindy is now crying hysterically, and more people become aware of what’s happening over in the corner, becoming concerned and even nervous.
These boys are cool though, very popular and everyone’s friend. They are the jokesters, and some of the chilliest guys everyone knows. No one wants to step in and tell them to cut it out.
Tyler, another classmate, steps out of the crowd, looks out the window, shouts “POLICE!” The crowd goes wild. The two boys forget about Cindy and turn around and book it. It doesn’t take long for kids to realize the police are not actually there.
Cindy’s friends go outside with her. She calls her mom to pick her up and goes home having narrowly escaped a dangerous situation.
• • • • •
This is a fictional short story, with fictional characters and fictional events. I used this to demonstrate how quickly a night of “fun” can go wrong, and that no one particularly wants to step out of the crowd and speak up to others.
However there are “subtle” ways to step up. An example of one of those ways is demonstrated in the story by Tyler. He demonstrates “distract,” which is from the Green Dot program. Tyler did a fantastic job of speaking up for Cindy in a way he was comfortable with and safe for him.
One person’s voice can completely change a situation and even save lives. Never forget the power your voice has and the lives you can change with it. Become an upstander, not a bystander.
Zoe Story is a member of the PHAT group, Promoting Health Among Teens.
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