Find Mediators Near You:

The Bystander

The folks at the Orange County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force in Vermont dedicate their efforts to prevention, intervention and healing of abuse – specifically, domestic violence and substance abuse, but any kind will do. Safeline, Inc. and SafeArt are two more organizations in Vermont that serve the same community, for the same purpose. In short, their mission might be described like this: secrets can be fatal, let’s see if we can get there first. The Task Force mission statement includes the “opportunity to be a Pro-active Bystander, to stay safe, yet to speak out against abuse.”

“Hey, I can do that,” said the mediator (“… or maybe I ought to.”).

Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and author of Night, dedicates his efforts to non-violent means of conflict management. Add Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, and one or two of my friends, and we have a team. Wiesel spoke at the University of Vermont last fall and mentioned his main method of healing: to be an active witness, one who is aware and compassionate. He is widely quoted for his words “to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”

“Hey, same thing,” said the mediator.

I’ve given myself this assignment — of being an active witness. I’m not up on a soap box, or knocking on doors. But even during a routine mediation there’s still plenty of time for me to be a “pro-active bystander” and an “active witness.”

“Um, so, what do you do, exactly?” asked the mediator.

Here’s one example. At my last mediation, I listened carefully. Insinuations were rampant among parties. I tried to catch them all, and even made verbal and written lists of jabs and insults. Without judging the parties’ language or choices, I did my best to address each incident; I politely inquired about the source of the jab with the jabber, and discussed the effect on the jabbee. This shockingly tedious exercise was an amazing time-saver in the long run. The jabber and jabbee seemed to tire of the deconstruction and they moved on – without being told. I love that part.

This system seemed to result in the parties feeling heard, and hearing themselves. They took the chance to make their own adjustments and put their own power to more constructive use. And they found this out on their own. I love that part, too.

Contact Mediation


Eva Zimet

Eva Zimet (JD, MFA, graduate certificate in conflict resolution) just today decided to devote her energy to never being angry again.  She decided that last week, too, but this week is different.  Other devotions include raising her four children and advancing communication and peaceful co-existence in the world. Eva does… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Oprah Winfrey Settles Defamation Case ‘Woman To Woman’

From Lee Jay Bermans'Eye On Conflict Blog Oprah Winfrey last week settled the defamation case brought by Nomnuyo Mzamane, the former headmistress of Winfrey’s girl’s school in South Africa. “Winfrey...

By Lee Jay Berman

Conflict Styles: Digital vs Paper

RiverHouse Press Blog by Ron KraybillIn training with the Thomas Kilmann or my Style Matters conflict style inventories, you have an option to use either a paper or online version.   I...

By Ronald S. Kraybill

High-Profile Attention for Mediation in Billion Dollar Family Dispute

Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints football team and the city's pro basketball team, the Pelicans, is reported to have a current (2015) net worth of $...

By Michael Toebe