Bystander Intervention

What is a Bystander?

A bystander is someone who notices concerning behavior and situations and who is faced with the choice to help, do nothing, or contribute to the negative behavior.

What is Bystander Intervention?

Bystander intervention is recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and choosing to respond in a way that could positively influence the outcome.

What is the Bystander Effect?

The term "bystander effect" refers to people being less likely to offer help when they are in a group than when they are alone. There are many possible reasons for this, including thinking that nothing is really wrong because no one else in the group seems concerned, or assuming that someone else will step in to offer help if there is a real problem.

How to Intervene

It is important to consider how you might respond when you identify a potentially harmful situation or interaction. To counteract the bystander effect, it's important to do the following:

Pay Attention: Be alert to what is going on around you and to things that make you feel uncomfortable.

Decide: Does someone need help?

Make A Plan: If a situation looks concerning, do something. Don't wait for your friend, neighbor, teammate, or classmate to act.

Make It Happen: Stay calm. Here's how to help:

  • Direct: Step in when something doesn't look right. Share your concerns and offer assistance.
  • Delegate: Get others to assist with the situation. Call for help from someone you trust or Public Safety.
  • Distract: Divert attention away from the situation to let those at risk move to safety.

Other 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.

In an emergency, call Public Safety: 412.396.2677