Bystander Intervention in Cases of LGBT Discrimination- An Interview with Adrienna Dessel

LGBT students face bullying on campuses and schools just for belonging to that group. Sometimes they are left alone to defend themselves even when there is someone there to observe the bullying. The question that arises is in what situations do bystanders intervene. This is the question that the research paper “LGBT discrimination on campus and heterosexual bystanders: Understanding intentions to intervene” by Adrienne B. Dessel, Kevin D. Goodman, Michael R. Woodford. Read further to learn more about this research.

1.Could you touch a bit on what the research is for our audience who may be learning about the topic for the first time?
There is not a lot of literature that looks at LGBT discrimination for LGBT students. There is not a lot out there for LGBT discrimination specifically. There is not a lot of literature out there on peer familiarity for college students. Research suggests that bystander intervention in different contexts can be especially important when thinking about LGBT discrimination. Therefore, we were interested in looking at different contexts and different experiences, such as: when the bystander knows no one, only witness/targets, only the perpetrator, and everyone present.

2.What got you interested in the topic?
I was interested in the topic because I am very interested in various ways in which LGBT students can combat discrimination.

3.What do you think should be to increase bystander intervention in cases when an LGBT member is being harassed for belonging to that group?
What we found was the following: female students more than male students indicated a higher intention to intervene in the three peer-familiarity context medium or high peer-familiarity. The opposite was observed when knowing no one. The combined effect of empathy and context may have also provided a role.

With regard to race, we found that Chicago/Latino/Hispanic students were more likely to intervene when knowing no one. With regard to religion, when knowing the perpetrator and knowing everyone, compared to secular students, conservative Christian and mainline students reported higher interventions to intervene. The same was found for conservative Christians when they knew a witness/target. LGBT attitudes may be a moderator or mediator in the effect of religious tradition and this needs further research.

Higher self esteem was positively associated with intention to intervene. Finally, when knowing no one, a negative relationship exists between perceiving the campus climate to be inclusive for LGBT students and the intentions to intervene. The same negative relationship exists for experiential climate. The insidious effects of heterosexism on campuses need to be further examined.

4.In your paper, you have focused on college campuses, do you think it would be a good idea to teach students about the LGBT community and bullying in high school?
I definitely think that increased bystander intervention should be taught in high school, as it is important for kids to learn about these issues as soon as they can.

5.Where are studies at the moment and where do you anticipate findings going in the next year or so?
The connections between intentions and actions are important for future research. It is important to implement programs such as speaker panels or intergroup dialogue to foster positive interactions among students. However, intergroup contact, including friendships, requires that LGBT students feel safe to be out on their campuses and other institutional environments.

I think the research done in this paper can help us understand bystander intervention so that we can figure out ways of increasing it. This will not only be beneficial in cases of members of LGBT being bullied but can generally help people that are bullied. It will also help create a safer and friendlier school environment.

If you have any more questions about the research you can contact Dr. Dessel at:

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