A A Email Print Share

Bystander Awareness: Be there for each other!

What do I do when I see something that's not cool? Here are some helpful suggestions to keep in mind when in a situation that could lead to sexual misconduct:

Steps to Action

Pay Attention - Be alert to things that make you feel uncomfortable
Signs of sexual pressure, unwanted attention or disrespect?
Someone who is way too drunk?
Worried looks? Anyone who seems scared or confused?

Decide - Should someone intervene?
Is the situation heading in a bad direction?
Does someone need help? If you can, check in with whomever you are aiming to help.

Make A Plan - Fit your intervention to the situation
Who's in the best position to act? Call on friends, allies, hosts, authority figures - or do something yourself.
When's the best moment? Now? Later? Do you need time to plan or to organize others?

Make It Happen - Stay calm. Follow your plan. Be ready to get help if you need it.
Look for allies. Be alert for others trying to help, too.
Start by using the lightest touch you can.
Act even if you feel awkward or nervous.

Techniques to Try

Think Small: Small interventions can be the most effective. Use humor and creativity. Act early. Act often.
Disrupt The Situation: Intrude. Make a joke. Change the topic. Spill something. Be a third wheel.
Offer Help: Signal your concern and willingness to act. It's OK if you are turned down at first or altogether. Simply offering to help changes the dynamics.
De-Escalate: Be calm, respectful. Shift the focus away from the problem.
Think Big: Most interventions are small. But some problems are so deeply entrenched that they require sustained action. Find allies and make plans.
Make Space: Separate the person at risk from the source of danger. Set some alternative plan in motion, or create a diversion.
Name the Problem: Acknowledging that things aren't right can go a long way.
Slow Things Down: Give people time to extricate themselves, if that's what they want.
Be Safe: If you think you are in danger, step back and get help.

Why does this work so well?

Sexual violence often operates through "scripts" - patterns that are surprisingly coercive for those cast in the central roles. As a bystander, you are an extra, standing by as the plot unfolds. Simply by stepping into the action, you break the script. You're like the kid in 3rd grade who walked on stage at the wrong cue and messed everything up. This time, that's exactly what you're after.

More Questions about Bystander Intervention?

Watch this Who Are You? video! It shows a few scenarios of bad situations and what can be done to help avoid sexual misconduct (be sure to review the trigger warning before viewing).