The power of small

two hands with intertwined little fingers
Orla Leahy

26th July 2021


There are numerous publications around the world titled “The Power of Small.” While it may have developed into somewhat of a cliché, the power of small should not be overlooked. Completing a university certified Bystander Intervention programme has illustrated to me that every day, there are millions of small but life-changing decisions made across the globe, whether or not to safely intervene.


In 2018, in the United States alone, it was estimated that 734,630 people were victims of rape according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Of those, only 25 per cent were reported to the police. The average lifetime cost for each of those victims in the US falls at just above $122,000.  It is undeniable that sexual assault and rape are seriously pressing and important global issues. In the search for solutions, we tend to jump to the biggest problem solver – how can the law be reformed to better protect victims? Sometimes, however, smaller actions can have a very worthwhile and instrumental effect.


To highlight the significance of simple actions, an advertisement was released in New Zealand in 2011, titled “Who Are You?” Although the advertisement was released 10 years ago, it is still of great relevance today.


“The flatmate ignores her clear discomfort and allows her to be led into her room by her fellow party-goer. He shuts her bedroom door with a resounding thud. But, what if the protagonist’s story didn’t end this way?”

The video begins by labelling the various characters that feature; best friend, employee, flatmate, and stranger, before depicting typical party scenes: drinking, playing games, music, and dancing. Quickly, the party group descends on a nightclub. The protagonist (and victim), a woman, begins to dance with another of the party-goers, a man. Her best friend returns from the toilets to see the protagonist looking decisively uncomfortable in his arms but leaves him to guide her to the bar for more drinks. The employee at the bar realises the protagonist’s obvious discomfort, but ignores it and serves the drinks. Eventually, the protagonist is led away by her fellow party-goer, past the stranger who notices that something is amiss but keeps to himself. Back at the protagonist’s apartment, another person, this time the protagonist’s flatmate ignores her clear discomfort and allows her to be led into her room by her fellow party-goer. He shuts her bedroom door with a resounding thud. But, what if the protagonist’s story didn’t end this way?


Suddenly, the video pauses and rewinds…the flatmate no longer stands by and watches, but thanks the protagonist’s fellow party-goer for bringing her home and offers him a blanket on the couch. The video continues to rewind, and this time the stranger outside the club does not keep to himself but alerts the bouncer who stops the party-goer from leading the protagonist any further away from the club, and offers her a taxi. Upon further rewinding, the employee asks the protagonist about her night and calls her best friend over to help her, rather than merely serve the drinks. Finally, upon returning from the toilets, the protagonist’s best friend takes her home.


This advertisement may have been released 10 years ago but its message remains the same. Simple and safe intervention can have life-changing positive consequences for victims. Positive change need not always come from the top, in the form of new and improved legislation, but it can be initiated and flourish from the small but powerful actions of every citizen.


Recently, universities around Ireland have backed the promotion of bystander intervention programmes and consent training to highlight the importance of small actions taken by citizens as I have illustrated with the advertisement above. For example, University College Cork were the first to implement a programme in 2017, in the form of a digital badge upon completion of four pre-recorded workshops, one live workshop, a number of quizzes and an assignment. University College Dublin has since implemented a compulsory anti-harassment 90 minute workshop for all incoming first year students. In 2020, Young Fine Gael called for the development of bystander intervention training in all Irish third-level institutions.


The New Zealand advertisement asks us who we are, and I ask what we can become? Well, we can become active bystanders and we can utilise the power of small as we have seen, with further development and implementation of bystander training. The only question remains, shall we?


Please note that one should only intervene where it is safe to do so.


If you have been affected by any of the content in this article, please see the following national services for support:


Women’s Aid

Phone: 1800 341 900




Men’s Aid

Phone: 01 5543811






Contact Form:

Find a Youth Group:

Phone: 01 670 6223 (this is not a helpline, so if you need to urgently speak with someone, you can find a list of helpful numbers here)


Online Chat Service:

Email: question@spunout. ie



Featured photo by Womanizer WOW Tech

This article was supported by: STAND Women Editor Ellen + Programme Assistant Alex


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