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Bystander Intervention Tips

Don’t Just Be a Bystander. Be a POSITIVE bystander.

Positive bystanders are individuals who witness situations that could lead to violent or criminal events and choose to intervene to prevent the situation from continuing or escalating. The positive bystander model promotes the idea that everyone in the community has a role to play in preventing sexual violence. This model helps shift the responsibility for preventing sexual violence from the victim (or potential victim) to the person perpetrating the violence and the individuals who witness the behavior.


Here are steps you can take to practice positive bystander behavior.

1. Recognize an event as inappropriate or sexually violent.

These behaviors range from sexist or derogatory language to trying to take an intoxicated person up to a bedroom. Other inappropriate or potentially sexually violent behaviors include intentionally trying to get someone else intoxicated or trying to take advantage of someone who is intoxicated.

Things to think about:

  • Am I aware there is a problem or risky situation?
  • Do I recognize someone needs help?


2. Assume personal responsibility.

Research shows that when more bystanders are present for an emergency or situation that could lead to a criminal event, bystanders are less likely to intervene. When more bystanders are present, individuals assume others will step in and intervene. You can make a real difference by assuming responsibility and stepping in to help the situation.

Things to think about:

  • What are the costs/benefits of taking action?
  • Who else can help?
  • Do I see myself as part of the solution?


3. Determine how to help (and maintain personal safety).

Once you have made the decision to intervene, it is important to come up with an intervention strategy that is productive for the situation and ensures your safety, as well as for those involved. You can be creative in your approach; it does not always have to be confrontational. Try using a distraction or asking others to help you intervene.

Things to think about:

  • How can I keep myself safe?
  • What are my available options?
  • Do I see others as part of the solution?


4. Speak UP and intervene!

Now that you have thought through your strategy, carry out your plan. After you have intervened, check in with the person needing help to make sure they are okay and they feel safe.

Things to think about:

  • Have I told everyone I need to about the problem?
  • Is everyone safe now?
  • How can I make sure the situation stays safe?


Bystander intervention tips courtesy of Bucknell University