Bystander Intervention

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.​

You can be an Active Bystander!

There are five steps to helping when you witness a problematic or potentially problematic situation:

  1. ​Notice the Event: People are busy, distracted, on their phones, talking, texting, not aware of their surroundings, or don’t want to notice. Pay attention to what is going on around you.
  2. Interpret It as a Problem: Sometimes it is hard to tell if someone is in need of help. Error on the side of caution and investigate. 
  3. Assume Personal Responsibility: If not you, then who? Do not assume someone else will do something.
  4. Know How to Help: Never put yourself in harm’s way, and remember help can be direct or indirect. 
  5. Implement the Help: Use the 4 Ds of Bystander Intervention to help!

What are the "5 Ds" of Bystander Intervention?

​1. Direct: Step in and address the situation directly. This might look like saying, "That's not cool. Please stop." or "Hey, leave them alone." This technique tends to work better when the person that you're trying to stop is someone that knows and trusts you. It does not work well when drugs or alcohol are being used because someone's ability to have a conversation with you about what is going due to being impaired, and they are more likely to become defensive.

2. Distract: Distract either person in the situation in order to intervene. This might look like saying, "Hey, aren't you in my Spanish class?" or "Who wants to go get pizza?" This technique is especially useful when drugs or alcohol are being used because people under the influence are more easily distracted than those that are sober.

3. Delegate: Find others who can help you to intervene in the situation. This might look like asking a friend to distract one person in the situation while you distract the other ("splitting" or "defensive split"), asking someone to go sit with them in order to talk, or going and starting a dance party right in the middle of their conversation. If you didn't know either person in the situation, you could also ask around to see if someone else does and check in with them. See if they can go talk to their friend, text their friend to check-in, or intervene.

4. Delay: For many reasons, you may not be able to do something in the moment. For example, if you're feeling unsafe or if you're unsure whether or not someone in the situation is feeling unsafe, you may just want to check in with the person. In this case, you can combine a distraction technique by asking the person to use the bathroom with you or go get a drink with you to separate them from the person. This might look like asking them, "Are you okay?" or "How can I help you get out of this situation?" This could also look like texting the person either in the situation or after you see them leave and asking, "Are you okay?" or "Do you need help?"  ​​

5. Document: Document the behavior(s) you witnessed including who was involved and who else may witnessed the harm. If someone is already helping, document the incident so that there’s proof of it. Filming, photos, taking screenshots, etc. Once you’re done, check with the targeted person what they want to do with it, as it’s not up to you to decide.

Want to Learn Why Bystander Intervention is Important?