Against Bystanding

Hollis Wong-Wear is a Seattle U Alumni, Grammy-award-winning musician and lead singer of The Flavr Blue.

If you see something, do something. I write today to bring light on two women’s stories of assault and harassment. The first is by Lopez, a woman who attended my band The Flavr Blue’s show at Neumos this past March. It is a deeply unfortunate instance on how a malicious act, amplified by passivity and bystanding, leads to trauma. Her initial degradation and humiliation was only amplified by the inaction, the passive observation, the denial of her experience. How is someone assaulted in a crowd of people and yet left so alone? How could so many people come to watch women perform onstage, and yet look away as a woman is assaulted amongst them? I truly regret that Lopez or any woman would have to experience such a violation and subsequent ambivalence at our show.

The second story is my friend Lizzie Vance, who was aggressively harassed and mocked by a man in downtown Los Angeles. Dozens of women have reported this same guy, Dan Ciley, for similar harassment, but because he does not place his hands on or otherwise physically assault women, choosing instead to film them without permission and post the footage online, there is little legal recourse for victims, leaving him free to terrorize women. In fact, you can see Lizzie featured from 19:44 on of this Youtube video that Ciley posted the day after he harassed her. As with Lopez’s assault, Lizzie received no support from witnesses at the scene. Not only did witnesses decline to help Lizzie, some men at the scene decided to film what was happening, piling onto the initial humiliation and creating a many-layered, unwanted spectacle.

These are only two of countless other stories of women being abused in public, while bystanders look on. In too many places, it is unsafe to be a woman (or a trans or non-binary person). Doing nothing—standing by—is its own violence. If you are a man, and you see another man threatening or assaulting someone, it is within your ability to be a force of good. It is also the responsibility of all of us to intentionally create spaces where harassers and assaulters understand that they are unwelcome; where they know that there will be consequences for their actions. I make a commitment as a performer now to no longer assume that just because people have shown up to attend a show I’m featured at, that they will automatically share my respect for the boundaries and safety of all people. It is on us as conveners to make crystal clear that any form of intimidation or harassment is absolutely unacceptable. The abuse that Lopez was subjected to at my band’s show was not acceptable—and neither was the inaction of those who witnessed it.

—Hollis Wong-Wear
To read Lopez and Lizzie’s stories, visit http://tinyurl.com/glf8nau.

Volunteer Writers are always invited to attend our weekly staff meetings. Our meetings are open to the community and there are many volunteer opportunities available. Please do not hesitate to join us on Monday nights; we love to see new faces at our meetings and hear fresh voices in our paper.


↑ Back to top