Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention is a violence prevention strategy that is powerful and accessible because it does not start from the assumption that each person is either a potential victim or perpetrator. Rather, the focus is on how each of us can become educated and empowered to act in ways that will positively affect the outcome of abusive, or potentially abusive, situations involving others. In that way, we come to understand that we all have an important role to play in ending domestic and sexual abuse.

Although most people want to help, there are many reasons why it’s easier to look the other way. In other words, there are lots of barriers that stop us from intervening. Here are a few:

  • Socialization not to get involved in other people’s business
  • Fear of retaliation
  • Thinking someone else will do something
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Don’t know what to do
Several things need to happen before someone intervenes. They have to:
  • Notice the situation
  • Interpret the situation as an emergency
  • Take responsibility for responding
  • Decide on the method of intervention (direct or indirect such as calling the police)
  • Act
What are some things YOU can do to intervene?
  • If you see someone in danger of being assaulted, step in and offer assistance or create a diversion (ex. spill a drink, cut in on a dance or interrupt the conversation) to make it easier for the prospective victim to walk away. NOTE: Before stepping in, make sure to evaluate the risk. If it means putting yourself in danger call 911 instead.
  • Enlist the help of others to help intervene.
  • There is evidence that the mere presence of bystanders reduces crime and that criminals try to avoid being observed while committing crimes. If you are witnessing an uncomfortable situation, don’t leave the room and keep your eyes directly on the interaction.
  • Confront friends who make excuses for abusive behaviors.
  • If you believe someone is dangerously intoxicated or has been drugged, do not leave them alone for any reason, get them immediate medical attention, and keep their beverage for drug testing.
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