All about online dating: The pros, cons, and things you need to know

Reading Time: 13 minutes Thinking of trying online dating but don’t know where to begin? We cover the good, the bad, and the ugly so you know what to expect before diving in.

Making social gatherings fun for everyone: A guide for hosts and guests

Reading Time: 11 minutes Social events are an important part of the college experience. Whether you’re a host or a guest, here’s how to make your next gathering fun for everyone.

Bystander intervention goes professional: 4 tips for stepping in on the job

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Here’s something most of us know, and the research backs up: Small actions make a big difference, especially when it comes to preventing sexual harassment and assault. If we see something that doesn’t feel right, we can act. This is bystander intervention: stepping in to reinforce our community values and prevent harm when we see something that looks like disrespect or pressure. Many of us already do this, like when we disrupt a conversation that seems uncomfortable or speak up when people make hurtful comments.

Often, when we think about sexual misconduct and bystander intervention, we’re thinking about intervening in social situations, such as on the dance floor, at a party, or in a relationship. But what happens when you see this happening at your internship, on the job, or at your workplace?

While we might know that it’s equally important to take action in the workplace, we might not exactly know how to do it, especially if we’re dealing with uneven power dynamics—like a boss who’s making crude comments to an employee or an established colleague taking advantage of a new intern. The good news? The basics, which you already know, work here too.

“The skills and strategies that work in social contexts can often be applied to other settings, including professional contexts such as a summer internship or other job,” says Laura Santacrose, assistant director of the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell University in New York, who developed Cornell’s “Intervene” project, a bystander intervention initiative for students. The knowledge and confidence that we’ve gained from intervening in other contexts make a difference. Knowing we have the skills to step in makes us more likely to do so, according to a 2014 study of college students in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Besides reinforcing your own personal values, you’re also setting the bar high for the rest of the organization. And that’s important. “Employers hope to create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all employees. A safe and inclusive environment fosters teamwork among colleagues, greater workplace satisfaction, and higher levels of innovation and creativity on the job. Employees who are able to facilitate such an environment are highly valued by both their employers and by their clients,” says Jeanine Dames, director of the Office of Career Strategy at Yale University in Connecticut.

Happy professional girl

So how do you do it?

Before you start, consider risk

Whenever we intervene, it’s critical to consider the potential risks involved and to make a safe plan. The power dynamics between supervisors and employees may make it difficult to intervene directly, so consider subtle or indirect actions. “There may be additional supports in a professional setting that will make an intervention easier [than in a social situation], including support from a human resources department,” says Santacrose.

Start here: Stepping in on the job

1. Pay attention to what’s happening

  • Overhear a sexist comment about the new hire’s cleavage? See a colleague’s uncomfortable face when he interacts with his overly handsy boss? Pay attention to the patterns.
  • Ask yourself: How might this situation impact the individuals involved? The department or team? The broader community of the organization or company?

2. Decide: Should someone step in? And who should that someone be?

  • Trust your instincts. It’s OK to decide to do something even if you aren’t sure there’s a problem.
  • Remember that “doing something” might be shooting a quick email to human resources (HR) or chatting briefly with your coworkers to see if they’re noticing it too. Ask your fellow employees or supervisors what they’re seeing or how they might deal with the situation. HR representatives may be particularly helpful. It’s their job to make sure that the workplace is safe and respectful, so they want to know when something seems off.

3. Make a plan

  • There are usually multiple ways to intervene. Play to your strengths. Not sure what those are? Take our bystander quiz here to learn more about your stepping-in style. Remember that interventions don’t have to be dramatic to be effective.
  • Pay attention to power dynamics. If you are worried about the consequences of intervening, consider confidentially reporting the problem to HR.

4. Make your move: Intervene and follow up

  • After you’ve intervened, follow up with the person being targeted or your colleagues.
  • Think about what the organization could do to make positive outcomes more likely in the future. What structural changes would help? Can you review company policies and suggest updates? Are there employee training options that can help set community standards? Make suggestions and be willing to help put them into place if it’s an option.

How would you respond?

Now that you know the basics, or at least can refer back to them, let’s get into some examples. Use the following scenarios to think about possible intervention strategies. What strategies would you choose?

Scenario 1: Inappropriate jokes

Imagine that you share an office space with several other summer interns. One of the interns, Taylor, often makes sexual jokes and suggestive comments. You and the other interns find the jokes annoying, but one of the interns, Sam, looks upset and starts to avoid the space.

  • Taylor is distracting everyone from work.
  • Sam might worry that others think Taylor’s jokes are OK.
  • Sam’s job performance could suffer.
  • Other interns’ job performance could suffer.
  • Taylor might continue this behavior in other workplaces, which could continue to hurt people—and damage Taylor’s job prospects.

  • Don’t laugh at the jokes. An awkward silence can speak volumes.
  • Privately check in with Taylor. “You probably mean well, but those jokes make you seem unprofessional.”
  • Privately check in with Sam. “You seemed a little bit uncomfortable with Taylor’s jokes. Are you OK?”
  • Talk to a supervisor. Suggest that supervisors discuss appropriate workplace conduct with new interns now and in the future.
  • Consider structural changes that can prevent this problem from happening again. Proactively start positive, professional conversations in the shared workspace. This sets a good example and minimizes chances for inappropriate conversations to begin.
  • Student story: “I politely interrupted the situation by asking a work-related question to cause a distraction and interruption. Then I privately talked to my co-worker at a later time.”
    Rebecca B., fourth-year undergraduate, Rochester Community and Technical College, Minnesota

Scenario 2: Unfair treatment

Imagine that you have a part-time campus job in a lab. The professor in charge of the lab chooses a graduate student, Riley, to lead a project. A few weeks ago, Riley asked one of your coworkers, Casey, out on a date. Casey said no. Since then, Riley seems to be treating Casey differently from the other lab members. Riley often dismisses Casey’s comments in meetings and assigns all the menial jobs to Casey.

  • The professor might think that Casey is not a good employee.
  • The rest of the lab members are missing out on Casey’s contributions.
  • Other lab members might feel like they must always agree with Riley or face retaliation.
  • Riley is behaving unprofessionally, which could hurt Riley’s future job prospects.

  • Validate Casey’s contributions. If Riley dismisses one of Casey’s comments, say, “I actually thought that was a really good point.” Similarly, volunteer to do the menial jobs yourself.
  • Check in with Casey. Tell Casey that you’ve noticed the problem and are available to help. Providing emotional support after an incident of harassment is the most common kind of workplace bystander intervention, according to a 2016 study in the International Journal of Human Resources Management.
  • Express your concerns with the professor supervising the lab.
  • Consider reaching out to an official such as a Title IX coordinator or HR representative.
  • Propose structural changes to ensure everyone’s voices are heard and menial jobs are fairly distributed. For example, you could suggest that everyone takes turns performing the less-desirable tasks using a chart that’s visible in the lab.
  • Student story: “I told my manager right away. The manager handled it from there.”
    Kassandra J., first-year graduate student, Texas Woman’s University

Scenario 3: Callouts on appearance

Imagine that you have a part-time job. Your supervisor makes small talk with employees as you arrive in the morning. Topics range from sports to the weather, but on several occasions, your supervisor has made comments about the appearance of one employee, Kai, such as, “You look gorgeous today!” and “That shirt looks great on you!” Your supervisor does not comment on other employees’ appearances.

  • This behavior creates a workplace that emphasizes people’s appearance, perhaps implying that their looks matter more than their ideas.
  • Kai may feel uncomfortable at work and worry about what the manager expects.
  • Other employees might worry that they will be treated differently based on appearance too.

  • Check in with Kai and express concern about the comments.
  • Subtly steer conversations back to appropriate topics.
  • Speak to another employee and ask for advice.
  • Talk to an HR representative. They may be able to take action without revealing your identity.

See? Your bystander skills just went pro. When you break it down like this, intervening becomes a little easier, which means your workplace can be just as supportive of a community as your campus is. So remember: Your bystander skills can work in any context, at any time.

Want more bystander info? Check out Cornell University’s bystander initiative, “Intervene.” This interactive training, useful for students of all kinds, offers concrete strategies for intervening in a wide range of social, academic, and professional settings.

Strategies developed by the Communication and Consent Educator program at Yale University.

[school_resource sh101resources=’no’ category=’mobileapp,healthservices, wellnesspromotion, counselingservices, titleix’] Get help or find out more


Article sources

Jeanine Dames, JD, director of office of career strategy, Yale University, Connecticut.

Laura Santacrose, MPH, assistant director, Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, Cornell University, New York.

Banyard, V. L. (2011). Who will help prevent sexual violence: Creating an ecological model of bystander intervention. Psychology of Violence1(3), 216–229.

Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Moynihan, M. M. (2004). Bystander education: Bringing a broader community perspective to sexual violence prevention. Journal of Community Psychology32(1), 61–79.

Bennett, S., Banyard, V. L., & Garnhart, L. (2014). To act or not to act, that is the question? Barriers and facilitators of bystander intervention. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(3), 476–496.

Bowes-Sperry, L., & O’Leary-Kelly, A. M. (2005). To act or not to act: The dilemma faced by sexual harassment observers. Academy of Management Review30(2), 288–306.

Carmody, M. (2005). Ethical erotics: Reconceptualizing anti-rape education. Sexualities8(4), 465–480.

Garcia, S. M., Weaver, K., Moskowitz, G. B., & Darley, J. M. (2002). Crowded minds: The implicit bystander effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology83(4), 843–853.

McDonald, P., Charlesworth, S., & Graham, T. (2016). Action or inaction: Bystander intervention in workplace sexual harassment. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27(5), 548–566.

McMahon, S., & Banyard, V. L. (2012). When can I help? A conceptual framework for the prevention of sexual violence through bystander intervention. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse13(1), 3–14.

Rayner, C., & Bowes-Sperry, L. (2008, June). Mobilizing bystanders to intervene in workplace bullying. In The 6th International Conference on Workplace Bullying.

Ask the counselor: “How do I survive in a racist community?”

Reading Time: 2 minutes

—Gala C., Dordt College, Iowa

It’s not easy being in a community that you feel has hatred toward others because of their race. It’s stressful to hear negative comments or see discrimination and feel like there isn’t much you can do to stop it. Racism is also bad for your health. Research has shown that the everyday stress of racism can harm your mental and physical health, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

You might find you become filled with hate toward those who are racist. But don’t match hate with hate; meet it with heart.

Heart is reminding yourself that those people’s beliefs and actions aren’t based in reality. Racism and other forms of hatred often come from lack of information and understanding about others. They’ve been taught something that’s untrue. Over time, with exposure to new ideas or to people from other groups, it’s possible that they can gain more acceptance. Heart is understanding that there’s a better way to live, and even things as horrible as racism can be overcome.

If you do plan to talk to people about their actions or beliefs surrounding racism, here are some tips:

  • Take time to discuss with them your positive experiences with people of other races.
  • Remind them of the great contributions different races have made.
  • Appeal to the good parts of their personality when they want to instinctively react with hate. For example, remind someone of their religious values (e.g., being a person of peace) or recall how much they suffered through a bullying experience as a way to create empathy toward the individuals who are being attacked.
  • Pick times for these discussions when things are neutral and everyone is calm.

Don’t try to argue and lash out; that probably won’t end well. Remember: Hate will lead to hate. Help them relearn a better way.

Group of friends on lawn with backs turned

Becoming an agent for change

As for yourself, another way to deal with racism is to become a person of positive change. For example, join an organization in your community or an online organization that works toward unity, or start your own. This way, you’re around like-minded people of other races who can support you.

You can also educate yourself about what racism is, learn the history of efforts to overcome racism, and look up resources to help address racial equity. A great place to start is the Racial Equality Resource Guide, which offers tool kits, a list of organizations across the country, and other resources to help you in your effort to effect change.

Stay calm

When you’ve confronted something that has you seething and you need to calm down now, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, exercise, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.

When is it time to go?

If you feel physically in danger, consider leaving the community. Sometimes the best efforts to make a change take time and distance. If you’re still living at home or aren’t financially able to leave just yet, you can still make a plan. Start to identify the places that you can live or spend time in where diversity is valued.

The student guide to going out

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Rate this article and enter to win
Going to a party? Or throwing one? Party-throwers and party-goers play a vital role in shaping the sexual culture of your campus. Party-throwers are the social engineers who design the spaces in which students meet, dance, talk, and sometimes drink or hook up. A well-planned environment helps everyone to make mindful decisions. And as a party guest, you can do a lot to make this easier for your host and more fun for yourself and others. Every time you demonstrate mutual respect, you reduce the likelihood of campus sexual assault and/or alcohol poisoning. Here’s how to throw a great party and be a great guest.

The minimum legal age for consuming alcohol in the US is 21.

How to make your party work for you



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How invitations can set the tone and expectations

Set the tone
How you talk about a party can go a long way in helping your guests imagine what it will be like. What’s the tone or vibe you want for your party? For example:

  • If you don’t want people throwing up on your couch, don’t advertise the party with lots of alcohol images.
  • Party themes can be fun—if they’re inclusive and thoughtful. Themes based on racial or gender stereotypes set up the party for failure.
  • Consider how many guests you can realistically handle: the  more people, the more potential for problems.

Set expectations
Are there “house rules” you want your guests to know about? For example:

  • You’d like to know in advance if they’re bringing friends
  • Certain spaces in your venue are off-limits
  • Behavioral tip-offs:
    • “Costumes are optional; respect for everyone is required”
    • “Please help us with cleanup before you leave”


Designated greeter


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“Oh, hi there!” Why it helps to have a designated greeter

Set a friendly tone
Consider explicitly assigning someone (or a few people) the task of greeting guests and inviting them in.

House rules
If there’s stuff your guests need to know, like when this thing is shutting down, consider posting it in the entryway.

Check in with arriving guests
Are they arriving alone? Slurring their words? Wobbly on their feet? You might want to check in with someone’s friends, get them medical attention, or not serve them any more alcohol.

Send people home safely
Make sure your guests have a safe way to get home. Check in with them as they leave. Post info about taxi and ride services, as well as medical response resources in case of accidents or alcohol poisoning.


Check in with neighbors and campus security


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Give certain people a heads-up

Here’s why that works out better for you:

Check in with your neighbors

  • Let them know you’re planning a party. Better yet, invite them! Let them know the day and time of the party (start to end).
  • Give them your phone number. Ask them to call or text if they have any concerns. Ideally, any noise complaints would be communicated to you first, rather than to the police. Don’t forget to pay attention to your phone during the party.

Check in with your campus security department

  • They will get in touch with you if something happens in your area that you and your guests should know about.
  • They may give you a call if they get a noise complaint rather than showing up and shutting the party down.
  • They may be able to help people get to and from the party safely.

Check campus policies and state laws

  • For example, if alcohol is being served and you do not have a liquor license, it may be illegal to collect money at the door—for any reason.


Dance and Chill Space


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Why parties need several spaces and options

Not everyone has fun the same way all the time.

Dance space
When you’re putting together the playlist or choosing entertainers or DJs, think about how well they fit your values and priorities for the party. Avoid music that seems derogatory or aggressive.

Chill space
Provide a quieter, more well-lit space where your guests can hang out, catch their breath, and talk. Play softer music. It’s a good idea to stock this space with cold water bottles and low-salt, high-protein snacks.

A set-up that makes room for conversation will help your guests communicate more clearly. This is especially important if two people are considering going home together.

Think about adding activities (apart from dancing) that don’t involve alcohol, like Jenga®, board games, and trivia.


Off-limits area


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What to do about isolated spaces

If there are isolated spaces in your party venue, decide whether or not to keep them open and accessible.

If not: Lock the door, rope off the space, and/or hang signs saying the space is closed.

If you keep isolated areas open, assign someone the task of checking in on those spaces throughout the party.




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How to trouble shoot at parties

Get medical help in case of alcohol poisoning
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the medical response resources available on your campus or in your community. If everything goes according to plan, your guests will drink safely and won’t need to use them.

Any of the following symptoms indicates alcohol poisoning
Call for medical help immediately:

  • Can’t walk unassisted
  • Unconscious and unresponsive
  • Vomiting continuously

Handle difficult guests
Keep your cool. Controlling tone and body language can be tricky, but it’s crucial to prevent the situation from escalating further.

  • Make clear “I” statements. Telling someone that they are too drunk or too aggressive invokes defensiveness. Try something like “I’m sorry but I can’t give you another drink” or “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
  • Ask for help. If the situation seems volatile, enlist the help of others: your co-hosts or close friends, or friends of the person causing trouble (ask them to take their friend home).




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How to be the party-thrower of party-goers’ dreams

Make yourself noticeable
Pick a certain color, a silly hat, or a large pin (“Here to help!”). This lets guests know where to turn if anything comes up. If a large group is throwing the party, consider trading off “hosting duties” through the evening.

Model supportive social dynamics
Party-throwers are especially attuned to the general mood. You get to take the lead on looking out for one another and treating guests with respect. If you drink alcohol, stop after one or two.

Make the rounds
Introduce people and troubleshoot issues as they come up.

Check isolated spaces, such as bedrooms, closets, and yards.

Subtly disrupt uncomfortable situations
Maybe a guest is getting unwanted attention or someone is pressuring others to drink. It’s your party: You can check in whenever you notice something, no matter how small. The most effective interventions happen early and subtly. Distract people, change the topic, make a joke or an introduction.


Designated server


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How to help your guests make mindful choices

If you plan to serve alcohol, aim for an environment in which everyone can make mindful, deliberate choices about whether they want to drink and how much. A successful party does not have to involve alcohol.

If you serve alcohol:

  • Keep it in one place. This way, your guests drink only if they’ve made an active choice to do so. Having alcohol in multiple places suggests that drinking (and often drinking heavily) is the default.
  • Have ice on hand. Your cocktails and mocktails (nonalcoholic cocktails) will feel fancier and your guests will take their time sipping their drinks.
  • Use narrow cups and proper measuring tools. If you’re serving hard liquor, use a 1 oz. shot glass.
  • Offer one or two nonalcoholic mocktails; promote them on signs or posters. Look online for recipes.


Designated server


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Why it helps to have a designated server

For guests, this set up makes drinking an active choice rather than a default. It’s easier for people to count their drinks over the course of the evening.

Designated servers are awesome at these party skills:

  • Mixing tasty cocktails that complement the party theme, or just serving beer or wine.
  • Not over-pouring drinks.
  • Keeping an eye out, noticing who needs to switch to something nonalcoholic.
  • Offering nonalcoholic options, including mocktails.

Many campuses and community organizations offer classes on bartending skills and safe serving practices—often for free.


How to get invited back



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Pay attention to the invitation

Notice the tone 
The invitation (whatever form it takes) should give you some idea of what your hosts have in mind. Big house party? Chill get-together?

Respect their house rules 
Validate the hosts’ trust in you. They might want to keep certain areas off-limits, or they may need to end things at a certain hour.

Plan ahead
Think about what you want out of the party. If alcohol will be served: Do you want to drink? How much? You can have a great time at any party without drinking any alcohol. If you do plan to drink, a good rule of thumb is one standard drink every hour or 1½ hours.

Be a good sport about the theme 
If your hosts have gone through the trouble of coming up with a theme, do your best to play along. A good theme will make room for everyone to participate in whatever way they feel comfortable, so feel free to find your own.

  • Does something about the theme seem off to you? Playing to racial or gender stereotypes is unlikely to end well. If the theme raises a red flag, bring that up with the hosts ahead of time. They would probably prefer to tweak things early on than end up with a lousy party.


Text message


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Touch base with the host in advance

Get in touch with your host at least a day in advance. Do they need help setting up? Or staying late to help clean up? This a great way to show your appreciation.

If you want to bring something, consider snacks (preferably low-salt and high-protein ones, like Greek yogurt dip or hummus with veggies) or mixers. These go quickly at parties, and your hosts will appreciate having extras.


A guest waving hello to the host


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Say hi to the host and the newbies

Find the host when you arrive
You’re here to see them, and they’ll be happy to know you made it. Ask if they could use a hand with anything.

If you don’t know many people there, tell your host
They want you to have fun. They probably have a good sense of who you’ll get along with, and can introduce you.

If you see new faces in the room, say hello
Offer to show them around, and introduce them to other guests. You’ve been that newbie—remember the relief when someone made you feel welcome in a new space.

If you’re the newbie, branch out

  • Parties are a great place to meet new friends. Foolproof conversation starters: “How do you know [the host]?” and “Got any tips or intel for rookies about life at [this school]?”
  • Trust your instincts. You may be new to this particular space, but you’re very good at knowing when you’re having fun and feeling welcomed. If you’re feeling pressured or getting an uncomfortable vibe from someone, pull a third person into the mix or come up with an excuse to leave the interaction.


Dance Space


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Respect other people’s limits – and your own

Fun means different things to different people. Some people would rather hang out and talk than spend the night on the dance floor. Some people will be more comfortable getting physical than others. Whatever it is, pay attention to the cues you’re getting, and respect them.

  • Most of us are very good at reading the subtle communicative cues we get from other people—including in romantic and sexual situations.
  • We can tell when someone is engaged and enthusiastic versus disengaged and uninterested. We notice things like whether the other person is leaning in or pulling away, intensifying or slowing down.
  • Ideal encounters happen when there is mutual enthusiasm. If you encounter anything less than that, take a step back and reassess. Hold out for a better situation.


A group of students taking a selfie


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Look out for yourself and others

If you notice a troubling dynamic, think about how best to step in
Perhaps you notice someone experiencing unwanted attention or being pressured to drink more than they want to. Maybe you see some broken glass or someone in need of medical attention.

Whatever it is, there’s always something you can do
This is your community, and you play an important role in making it a positive and supportive one. You could:

  • Check in: Say hello, ask a question, ask for help. A small distraction like that can give someone the out they need.
  • Engage the hosts: Let the people who are throwing the party know sooner rather than later. The sooner you spot potential trouble, the easier it is to redirect things unobtrusively.
  • Find the friends: If you don’t know the people involved, you can find their friends and see if they can intervene.

If you’re worried that your friend is pressuring others
This can be a great opportunity for a stealthy intervention—for example, by joining a conversation or people on the dance floor. If you’re close to your friend, you can always demand that they consult you about something important in the other room.


Designated server


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If you choose to drink, do so mindfully

People have different limits when it comes to alcohol
Many people make the decision not to drink alcohol at all. Pressuring someone to drink beyond their limit puts them at risk and creates more work for your host. That guest who drinks too much may get sick, need medical attention, or be unable to get home safely.

Trust your own limits
Be especially cautious if you are stressed or sleep-deprived, taking medication, have alcohol misuse in your family, or have diabetes. If you’ve chosen to drink alcohol, remember to pace yourself so that you’re sober enough to enjoy the party and the company of your friends. Tips for drinking safely:

  • Think ahead to the party and decide if and how much you want to drink.
  • Limit yourself to one drink per hour or 1½ hours.
  • Hydrate! Alternate alcoholic drinks with water, seltzer, or soda.
  • Ask and remind friends to support your decision about drinking limits.
  • Avoid drinking games. “Drinking games are designed to have you fail and promote more drinking,” says Dr. Scott Lukas, a researcher in substance use and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Include people who don’t want to drink

  • Offer nonalcoholic options if you’re offering to get the next round of drinks: “Does anyone want another beer or soda?”
  • Suggest conversation and dancing—activities that don’t center on drinking. Think of something that everyone can take part in.
  • Model reasonable drinking habits so that sober people feel comfortable being around you. Feel free to turn down a drink you don’t want with a quick “No thanks” or “Still working on this one.”


Designated greeter


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Check in again before you leave

Thank the host for a great party
Ask if they need anything before you head out: Can you lend a hand cleaning up? Can you walk someone home or give them a ride?

Don’t leave your host in the lurch
If your host is dealing with drunk or unruly guests, ask what you can do to help. Maybe you could suggest that everyone head out for pizza, help find the stragglers’ friends, or offer them a ride home.


Text message


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Follow up the next day

Thank your host
They’ll be happy to hear what you enjoyed. If their party planning supported different ways to have fun, say how much you appreciated it.

Check in with anyone you may have been concerned about at the party

  • If you weren’t able to act in the moment, don’t assume the opportunity has passed. You can always check in afterward: “I saw you at the party on Saturday. I was concerned. Did that work out OK?”
  • This is especially effective if you are noticing an ongoing dynamic. You might get coffee with a friend to talk about their new relationship. You can also check in with a friend if their behavior has been a little pushy lately.
  • If you are concerned about a friend’s behavior, it can be useful to talk to them later when there is time to sit down.
  • Avoid taking an accusatory tone. Voice your concerns about the particular situation or pattern of behavior.
  • Make sure your friend knows you’re bringing this up because you care about them and you want to look out for them. You can say something like: “I know you meant well” or “You know that I think you’re a great person.”
  • You know your friend best: You’re equipped to figure out how to have a conversation about why it’s wrong to use pressure.

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Melanie Boyd, PhD, assistant dean in student affairs at Yale University; lecturer in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

Abbey, A. (2011). Alcohol’s role in sexual violence perpetration: Theoretical explanations, existing evidence, and future directions. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(5), 481–489.

Abbey, A. (2002). Alcohol-related sexual assault: A common problem among college students [Supplement]. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 14, 118–128.

Benson, B. J., Gohm, C. L., & Gross, A. M. (2007). College women and sexual assault: The role of sex-related alcohol expectancies. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 341–351.

Banyard, V. L., Plante, E. G., & Moynihan, M. M. (2004). Bystander education: Bringing a broader community perspective to sexual violence prevention.
            Journal of Community Psychology, 32(1), 61–79.

Bay-Cheng, L. Y., & Eliseo-Arras, R. K. (2008). The making of unwanted sex: Gendered and neoliberal norms in college women’s unwanted sexual experiences.
            Journal of Sex Research, 45(4), 386–397.

Carmody, M. (2005). Ethical erotics: Reconceptualizing anti-rape education. Sexualities, 8(4), 465–480.

Hingson, R. W. & Howland, J. (2002). Comprehensive community interventions to promote health: Implications for college-age drinking problems.
            Journal of Studies on Alcohol Supplement 14, 226–240.

Lindgren, K. P., Pantalone, D. W., Lewis, M. A., & George, W. H. (2009). College students’ perceptions about alcohol and consensual sexual behavior: Alcohol leads to sex.
            Journal of Drug Education, 39(1), 1–21.

Mohler-Kuo, M., Dowdall, G. W., Koss, M. P., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Correlates of rape while intoxicated in a national sample of college women.
            Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 65(1), 37–45.

Sweeney, B. N. (2011). The allure of the freshman girl: Peers, partying, and the sexual assault of first-year college women. Journal of College & Character, 12(4).

Bike here, not there: How to be an assertive cyclist

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“Look at what happens to you on a bicycle. You pedal. You make decisions. You experience the tang of the air and the surge of power as you bite into the road. You’re alive!”
—The late Richard Ballantine, from New York, founder of the assertive cycling movement

Cycling is quick, cheap, environmentally blameless, and great for the legs and heart. Local and state governments are encouraging us to ride our bikes to school or work. As this timeless student activity re-emerges in the modern world, the key is not aerodynamic bikes and snazzy gear, but the skills to safely navigate campus and public roads.

That’s a daunting prospect in our car-centric cities. Typically, cyclists are expected to hug the gutter, and cycling accidents are cited as evidence that cars and bikes cannot co-exist. Increasingly, though, cyclists are re-occupying the roads.

How? By claiming our space in the lanes and following traffic rules just as we would when driving cars. This is the central principle of assertive cycling, also known as effective or mindful cycling. And it turns out the middle of the lane is the most visible—and the safest—place for cyclists to be.

This approach is key to biking in traffic, experts say. “I loved cycling, but about eight years ago I was finding road traffic so miserable I was thinking of giving it up,” says Keri Caffrey, who has since co-founded CyclingSavvy, a cyclist training program based in Orlando, Florida.

Then she discovered assertive cycling. “One day I moved out into the lane and it felt really weird.  It took about a month for anyone to honk at me, but only a week for me to say I would never again ride in the gutter. If you love riding a bike, this is life changing. All your problems go away.” Her CyclingSavvy training program is now available in 17 states.

Students and bikes: Who’s riding and why?
The number of people biking (and walking) their commutes is rising slowly and steadily, according to a 2013 report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking, a nationwide advocacy network based in Washington DC.

Of 1,135 students who responded to a recent Student Health 101 survey, 25 percent ride their bikes on campus, or plan to. Their top reason (of five choices) was convenience, followed by the physical fitness benefits, low transport costs, access to fresh air, and enjoyment. Many students also cited environmental considerations.

“It’s the most convenient way to get around, it’s faster, and I enjoy biking,” says Lindsay H., a senior at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

“Biking is fun, great exercise, shortens my commute time, and is easy to park on campus,” says Maryalice W., a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

“Riding a bike at night feels much safer than walking,” says Pekka G., a graduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Cyclists are legal drivers in every state, points out Kirby Beck, a bike safety expert and former police officer, who trains cyclists in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “But ‘Stay off the road, it’s too dangerous’ is the mindset a lot of people have gotten into, even though the first road users were cyclists and they’ve never lost that right,” he says.

Assertive cycling: what it isn’t

Ignoring road rules
Many American cyclists don’t  respect the rules of the road. “Police officers don’t hold cyclists accountable,” says Kirby Beck. Dashing across red lights might seem an exciting route to the lecture hall, but it’s also a route to the emergency room.

Cycling in gutters and on sidewalks
“The worst possible place a bike can operate is on the edge of the traffic system, because it makes them invisible and irrelevant,” says Keri Caffrey. “The four leading crash types account for probably 95 percent of all bike crashes. All four are exacerbated or caused by riding on the edge of the road.” On sidewalks, pedestrians move unpredictably, and cyclists are unsafe at driveways and intersections.

Leading crash types involving cyclists
Right hooks
The motorist passes the bike then turns right across the cyclist’s path.
Cyclist crash: Right hooks

Left cross
The motorist turns left across the path of the oncoming cyclist.
Cyclist crash: Left Cross

Drive out
The motorist pulls out of a driveway and into the path of the cyclist, who is likely screened by trees and other obstacles.
Cyclist crash: Drive Out

The motorist tries to pass without giving the bike enough space.
Cyclist crash: Sideswipe

Cyclists’ risk of having an accident declines as they gain experience. The risk to cyclists also declines as more people take to their bikes and drivers become better at sharing the road.

Use caution when cycling in bike lanes
Bike lanes make us feel safer, but their effectiveness is controversial. “Don’t trust your safety to paint—there’s no guarantee that the planner or engineer had any clue what he was doing,” says Kirby Beck. Typically, bike lanes are too narrow to allow vehicles (especially buses and large trucks) to pass safely. Bike lanes are associated with accidents at intersections, because cyclists are awkwardly positioned and difficult to spot. Stay vigilant.

Assertive cycling: what it is

Biking safely and confidently involves a skill set that enables you to position yourself in ways that motorists expect and respect, while keeping your distance from their mistakes. In addition, it gives you the confidence to overcome drivers’ occasional disapproval.

Follow the rules of the road
“The best way to be traffic-safe on a bike is to obey the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles,” says John Forester, a cycling transportation engineer in Lemon Grove, California, who pioneered this approach. “In-traffic skills are easily learned. The difficulty is the psychological strain of escaping from society’s taboo against cycling in traffic.”

Basic rules of the road
  • Never ride your bike on the wrong side of a street, including riding the wrong way on a one-way street.
  • Always obey red lights and other traffic signals. At stop signs, always yield to approaching traffic.
  • Long before reaching an intersection, check the traffic, signal, and move laterally to the correct position. Yield to traffic as you do so.
  • Claim your space in the road. Position your bike in the lane just as you’d position your car.
  • Never ride in the parked cars’ open-door zone.
  • Use your knowledge of how traffic operates to be alert to drivers making mistakes.
Black, gray, and pastel clothes blend into the background and shadows. Wear reflective clothing or bright colors to stand out in traffic.

Flashing strobes might help in daytime. At night, add solid lights for your own consistent vision.

Overcome your fear of the road
We’re scared of getting into the lane because bikes in traffic are exposed and slow, says Keri Caffrey: “But when you take away all the crashes caused by being invisible and irrelevant, there are tremendous advantages to being exposed and slow.” Road cyclists are visible. Drivers see them ahead and change lanes, avoiding the dilemma about whether there’s room to pass. Road cyclists have no blind spots. And at their slower speeds, cyclists can process more information than drivers can, allowing for greater control of their environment.

Bike here not there

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