Bystander training pays off for Colorado Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Edward Todd
  • Peterson AFB, Colo.
It was around 2:20 a.m., May 8, and my friend and I had just exited a club in Denver and began walking three blocks down the street looking for a taxi.

We came across a young woman who had her back to us, but I noticed that she was surrounded by four men and was up against a brick building. Keep in mind, the streets were still crowded but something didn't seem right about this particular situation. She was on the phone with a concerned and glazed look. I thought she looked extremely intoxicated. I told my friend to hang out near the area so we could better hear what was said between the two parties.

The men were trying to convince this young lady to accompany them to another night club, but knowing the area, I was certain that all the clubs had closed at 2 a.m. Concerned, I made it my mission to help this young woman who clearly didn't know who these people were, let alone where she was.

After she continuously said, "no," the men changed their tactics and tried to convince the young woman that they were trustworthy and began imploring her to allow them to drive her home. When I saw she was beginning to contemplate their suggestions, I knew I had to act. Two of the men argued about whose vehicle she was going to ride in, and the other two kept her attention with small talk.

I approached her and said, "Don't go home with these guys, they're dangerous, come with me if you want to live." I know the line was corny, but I watched "Terminator 2" the night before. When she looked me in the eye, saw my intentions were honest and I was not with them, she accepted my offer.

I took her by the hand and headed down the street. We were stopped by the four men, who stood in front of us and questioned my intentions. They said, "Hey, she's with us, that's our friend and we are going to make sure she gets home alright." I said, "If she's your friend, what's her name?" They looked at each other, and one of the men said "Karen." I glanced in her direction and saw her shaking her head in fear. I told them, "Unlike you, I am a friend of hers and I don't want trouble so get out of our way."

The men, clearly frustrated with the situation, headed down the street. I waited with her until I could wave down a taxi and make sure the men didn't return. During this time, she continuously thanked me for helping her and said that her friends had left her earlier in the night. Once the taxi arrived I made sure she confirmed her address with the driver. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and thanked me again. "I'm glad there are still good guys out there," she said. After a wave goodbye, she was on her way home safely.

Bystander Intervention Training helps me recognize situations that don't necessarily seem legitimate. In other words, it boils down to a numbers game. If you see two women enter a bar then leave with two men, it seems ordinary. However, when the numbers favor the males over the woman, it's time to take notice.

We have to keep in mind that people are out at a club or bar for many different reasons. Some are looking for relationships but most are just looking to have a good time. Unfortunately, women meet the wrong men. When I see a woman alone in that type of situation, it usually sets off a protective alarm.

I hope my story helps Airmen recognize things that otherwise would go unnoticed. I don't consider myself a hero -- just a guy in the right place at the right time. Always have someone with you and never leave your friend alone, especially if they are intoxicated. It's like Edmund Burke said: "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."

(Editor's note: All Vance military and Department of Defense civilians who supervise are required to take active bystander intervention training. Training must be received once within a two-year period. Sign-up for training at S:\Public\SARC\ACTIVE BYSTANDER INTERVENTION. For more information, or to speak with the Wing's Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, call 213-5597. To report a sexual assault, call the 24-hour SARC hotline, 580-541-7095.)