For most people, Halloween is all about fun, candy, and costumes. But one woman has made a choice to wear the scariest costume of all: a non-intervening bystander. “This holiday is a real teachable moment,” says O’Connor, while scribbling various hotline phone numbers on the backs of several fun size Snickers bars.
“Many people think that doing nothing, by definition, has no affect on a given situation,” O’Connor told a group of women dressed as woodland faeries at an acquaintance’s Halloween get-together. “But that is a grave misunderstanding. In fact, many sexual assaults would not even happen if bystanders stepped in to help.”
“Oh, wow, that’s really clever, Colleen,” says one faerie, before leaving to refill her cup.
“Being complicit is scarier than any ghost or goblin,” O’Connor continues, over the flower crown weaving area of the party. “We don’t like to think about it, but it’s true.”
O’Connor has always chosen to approach Halloween in this manner. In her senior year of high school, while most of her peers went as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, she went as The College Board. “I just wore my normal clothes and told people, ‘I thrive on your fear.’”
“Last year, I was the Tragedy of the Commons, so I just walked around turning the lights off all night.” Although the host did ask her to leave, she maintains that, “There’s never an inappropriate time for examining the ills of society.”
This year, O’Connor plans to attend as many All Hallows’ Eve soirées as possible in order to spread her message. So far, the results are mixed.
“Her heart’s in the right place,” says one host, a sexy fireman. “It is kind of a downer though.”
Even Colleen’s children are a little fazed by their mother’s dedication to social justice-themed costumes. Thomas, 9, says, “This is the last year I go as a Product of Society.”
Even so, O’Connor remains steadfast.
“For tonight, my mission is to educate,” she says, while writing out bell hooks quotes in shaving cream on her neighbor’s driveway. “Tomorrow though, I was thinking maybe Bridget Jones. We all have to let loose once in a while, you know?”