What is Bystander Intervention?

What is Bystander Intervention?

The Facts

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Bystander intervention happens when a person observes a scenario and expresses an opinion about someone else's inappropriate, hurtful, abusive, or hazardous words and/or behavior. Any person who sees a scenario is referred to as a bystander. You all see innumerable situations and exchanges on a daily basis, but you rarely recognize them as requiring your attention. An active bystander is someone who recognizes a potentially dangerous situation and decides how to react.

When bystanders perceive that a situation is about to worsen and intervene, they can help avoid sexual assault. This method is used to address other people's actions to make communities safer and reduce sexual assault.

How can You be an Active Bystander?

A scenario may not feel quite right at times. It might be improper comments made by a buddy, or you notice someone being harassed at a party or club. When someone's behavior is improper or threatening, being an active bystander entails recognizing it and choosing to intervene. If you don't feel comfortable doing it alone, enlist the assistance of a friend or someone in authority.

When you interfere, you're telling the culprit that what they're doing is wrong. If such signals are repeatedly reinforced in society, the boundaries of what is regarded as acceptable can be shifted, and undesirable behavior can be restricted.

Bystander intervention can be an effective technique of preventing sexual assault before it occurs, because bystanders have an important role in preventing, deterring, and/or intervening when an act of violence is imminent.

When Should a Bystander Intervene?

Bystanders are advised to act before a sexual assault occurs, such as when an individual is:

  • Acting in an improper, forceful, or harassing manner
  • Creating obscene jokes or remarks
  • Show possessiveness, extreme jealousy, and/or aggression.
  • Something that doesn't feel appropriate to say or do.

If the situation is hazardous, looks to be increasing, or the behavior does not appear to be stopping on its own, action is required.

How should a Bystander Intervene without Endangering Themselves?

As a bystander, it's critical to assess whether there's a safe and appropriate method to interfere and act to help someone before, during, or after an occurrence.

First and foremost, always use caution. Only act if you are confident that it is safe to do so. Based on the scenario, decide what steps you feel comfortable doing. These are some crucial guidelines to follow if you want to be an engaged bystander in any way:

  • Assess for Safety

Whenever you notice someone in distress, consider whether you can assist them safely in any manner. Remember that your personal safety is paramount; never put yourself in danger.

Maintain a safe environment for yourself and others. Evaluate the possibility of direct involvement. You might pick a more indirect approach of becoming an active bystander if you are concerned about your or others' safety. If you find yourself in a hazardous position, get out of it as soon as possible and reconsider your alternatives. Don't be a bully or a thug. The goal is to counteract bad behavior with good.

  • Be in a Group

In a group, it's safer to speak out or intervene on inappropriate behavior. If this isn't possible, inform those who can help.

  • Care for the Victim

Speak with the person you believe requires assistance. Inquire if they are in good health.

Maintain a calm attitude at all times and make an effort to soothe others. Things will be less likely to spiral out of control if individuals are less upset.

Based on the conditions, including your own personal safety, choose the appropriate manner of intervention:

  • Direct action

Directly confront the harmful behavior so that the target of the behavior is empowered to leave, or the offender may choose to cease. Point out bad behavior, advise the offender to stop, or inquire about the victim's well-being. If you can, do it as a group. 

Stepping in to separate the persons and using strong words are examples of this. Direct involvement can also take the form of addressing the targeted individual, "Are you fine, do you need help?" or expressing your discomfort or disapproval of inappropriate jokes and language. Always treat others with respect. Keep your cool and explain why anything has angered you. Exaggerate not. Stick to the facts.

  • Distract

Interrupt, initiate a dialogue with the culprit, or have others interfere with allowing their possible target to disappear. To guarantee that the victim can get out of the situation, create a diversion or shift the focus of either side. If it's acceptable, use humor or an excuse to distract the perpetrator's attention; this gives the target of the behavior a chance to leave the scene.

You can come up with a means to get the victim out of the situation - tell them they have to take a call or that you need to speak with them; any reason to get them out of there and to safety. In cases of street harassment, distraction works effectively, such as asking the culprit for the time or directions.

  • Delegate

Get someone else to speak out if you're too ashamed or hesitant to do so or if you don't feel secure doing so. Any reputable venue will have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, and the personnel will respond accordingly.

If you don't feel comfortable intervening directly, don't know what to do, or don't want to get involved, this is a decent alternative. You can notify a specialist in the Counseling Center if you have concerns about a friend's well-being. You can tell the party host if you are at a party and someone is attempting to get someone else intoxicated.

  • Delay

When the situation is too risky to confront right now (for example, if there is a threat of violence or if you are undermanned), simply walk away. Wait for the incident to pass before inquiring about the victim's well-being. Alternatively, report it as soon as it is safe to do so — it is never too late to take action.

Suggestions for Safe and Positive Bystander Actions

  • Take action to prevent a friend from using violence.
  • Take the effort to assist friends who aren't thinking properly in order to prevent them from becoming violent targets.
  • Prevent a drunk individual from visiting a private area with a buddy or acquaintance.
  • Recognize whether a buddy is in a relationship that is causing them fear or bodily suffering, then express your worries and offer to help them.
  • Avoid circumstances where inebriated individuals may be unable to agree.
  • Discuss safety precautions with your friends, as well as what to do if one of them is in danger.
  • At a club or bar, don't leave a friend or acquaintance alone.
  • If there is something you can safely do to interfere, don't keep mute or stand by.
  • Don't assume that someone else has stepped in to help.

Bystanders are a possibility for all of you. The world around us is always changing. You'll notice someone who is in danger at some time. When this occurs, you must choose whether to act (and so become an active bystander) or to simply let it go (and remain a passive bystander).

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