ISU Student Severely Injured After Intervening in Street Harassment

Feb 20, 2015

A group of men were harassing a woman in Ames when bystander Cale Truhlsen of West Des Moines stepped in to try and stop it.    

Truhlsen was attacked by the group harassing the young woman after stepping in, and he’s still in the hospital after suffering a broken nose, a black eye, and a hole in his intestine that required surgery.

Here we have a young man who observed a situation that was potentially hurtful or harmful and saw some injustices and wanted to do the right thing. - Alan Heisterkamp

Alan Heisterkamp, Director of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Leadership Institute and the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa, says Truhlsen did the right thing by intervening.

“I was really deeply saddened and heart-broken to hear about this. Here we have a young man who observed a situation that was potentially hurtful or harmful and saw some injustices and wanted to do the right thing… then it ended up that he was the victim of assault. It’s a pretty sad story.”

The Ames Tribune has reported that Truhlsen remembers telling the group of men to “chill out” and tried to communicate in a non-confrontational way before being brutally beaten.

When to intervene?

In training sessions where young men and women are taught what Heisterkamp calls “the bystander approach”, he encourages people to have conversations about how and when to intervene.

“Think about your surroundings, what your resources are, ways you can disrupt or diffuse situations.”

He says it’s important to know your boundaries and not step in when you don’t think you can make a difference on your own.

“At the end of the day, why do men harass women, and why do men assault other men who challenge those sexist or disrespectful behaviors? We have to have a conversation with our young men about this. I had three of my daughters go to Iowa State. I would have hoped if something like this had happened to one of them that someone like him would have stepped in.”