Sandra Bledsoe

Bystander Intervention Training: All You Need To Know

Bystander intervention refers to recognition of a potentially dangerous or inappropriate situation and taking action to resolve it. Bystander intervention can occur when a person witnesses any unlawful situation and helps to de-escalate the situation. It is an educational model that aims to train people to minimize unlawful situations.

The intervention of bystanders is very useful to spread awareness and discourage violations of law. This includes sexual harassment, inappropriate behavior, and language. For instance, if someone sees another person adding roofies to an open drink, they can call out such behavior and report it to the proper authorities. By intervening, the bystander helps to prevent an act of unlawful activities and violence.

Bystander intervention was conceptualized to help people become an ally for others. It encourages empathy and sensitivity in people. It is a strategy that helps prevent and reduce violence by making people aware of their responsibilities. Bystander intervention has proved to be useful in reducing crimes related to dating and sexual violence. It stems from the philosophy that all members of society have a collective role in reducing violent acts.

Bystander intervention is pivotal in creating a safe workspace. The workplace guarantees equality. Yet, some individuals withstand a violation of their rights in the workplace. By implementing a bystander intervention training program, one can create a safe workplace.

Workplace Harassment and Bystander Intervention: How Does it Work?

The workplace is a site for several forms of harassment. This includes unsolicited sexual comments, touches, and emails. It includes physical, sexual harassment, microaggressions, implicit bias, visual sexual harassment, and verbal sexual harassment. There have been instances where superiors have pressured employees for dates and sex.

Workplace harassment is real and not limited to one gender. Often, men are at the receiving end of workplace harassment. Unfortunately, the crime goes unreported in most cases as the narrative of sexual harassment makes women the victim.

However, sexual harassment has been normalized to such an extent in the media that it often occurs amid witnesses. This had led to the development of the bystander intervention program. By using the bystander intervention program, one can potentially reduce and minimize such cases at the workplace.

Apathy to Empathy: Bystander Intervention

The bystander intervention program seeks to counter the bystander effect in people. The bystander effect refers to a phenomenon in which people are less likely to help others if more people are present. The bystander effect is a common occurrence in a community. It can stem from a sense of self-preservation, or it can be deeply embedded in human behavior. However, with bystander intervention, one can collectively fight the issues.

Bystander intervention stops harmful actions, words, gestures, and comments at the moment when it occurs in someone’s presence. The idea is that if every community member can contribute, it helps to make the workplace safer.

No Harm for the Bystander in Bystander Intervention 

While bystander intervention does seek to stop acts of violence, it does not intend to put the bystander in harm’s way. It does not necessarily involve confronting the aggressor directly. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge with bystander intervention is convincing people that it does not involve risking oneself.

Bystander intervention is more about problem-solving rather than directly involving oneself in fisticuffs. It prepares a person for unprecedented emergencies but helps to de-escalate situations.

After attending a bystander intervention training program, one is more aware of the strategies that can be used to respond to the situation. For instance, it can mean checking up on the survivor and ensuring they have all medical needs fulfilled. 

Learning Objectives of Bystander Intervention Training in the Workplace

The bystander intervention training program seeks to work in tandem with the employees and employers. Bystander intervention training involves focusing on the roles of the perpetrator and the survivor. It also encourages people to introspect their thoughts and actions. 

Experienced counselors supervise bystander intervention programs. By enrolling in a bystander intervention training program, participants will learn the following :

  • Learn the responsibilities of being a bystander in any situation. 
  • Introspect their own experiences to apply the concept of bystander intervention. 
  • Identify situations that need bystander intervention. This means that the participant will understand how to respond to a situation. Is there a need for bystander intervention, or should the police handle the case?
  • Bystander intervention programs help to flip the narrative of victim-blaming. This is because participants gain an understanding of the perspective of the perpetrator.
  • The program increases empathy for survivors and helps them report the crime.
  • Bystander intervention includes finding any resources that can de-escalate the situation.
  • It helps employees understand problematic behaviors in people.
  • Participants can unlearn problematic behaviors themselves and establish individual boundaries.
  • It helps participants understand the role of the community in preventing workplace crime. Moreover, it ensures that there is a minimum violation of rights for everyone involved.


How can you make the Workplace Safer with bystander intervention?

Bystander intervention at the workplace can prevent potential lawsuits against the company. It helps to create a safe work environment for people as opposed to a hostile work environment. With engaged bystander intervention activities, employees can recognize problematic behaviors.

Bystander intervention should not be a one-off event. It is a necessary educational program that can potentially save lives. By doing the bare minimum, a company will end up ruining its reputation rather than building it. It also makes people effective and accurate witnesses in times of need.

While several companies resort to sexual harassment training, most miss the point. Therefore, it can often end up making such situations worse.

The 4 Ds of Bystander Intervention

  • Distract

This is an indirect method of bystander intervention. For instance, if an employee sees a concerning situation, they can distract the participants by removing the perpetrator from the equation.

  • Delegate

Delegation means taking the problem to HR or concerned authorities. By delegating, the bystander acts as a witness and can help bring suitable action against the perpetrator(s).

  • Delay

This involves taking care of the survivor. For instance, if someone has been a part of an uncomfortable situation, the employee can help them report it to HR.

  • Direct approach

By directly approaching the perpetrator, employees can quickly put a stop to an uncomfortable situation. For instance, if someone cracks a lewd joke by taking a stand, the employee supports the survivor.

Resources for Bystanders in the Workplace

The human resource department is one of the foremost authorities to be consulted on such occasions. The bystander may contact HR and report any occurrences. The bystander can differentiate between unprofessional behavior and unlawful behavior. This helps them respond accurately to the situation.


Being an ally with bystander intervention means you do your utmost to bring about a change. The bystander intervention training program teaches individuals about the minutes of such emergencies. Moreover, it teaches people to identify situations where they can play an active role. 

One cannot be expected to attend to every situation. That is why police exist. It must be noted that intervening as a bystander is not enough. It is also necessary for everyone to educate themselves and unlearn the norms perpetuated by patriarchy. Bystander intervention training is pivotal to reducing acts of violence in society.