Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention – There is A Lot You Can Do to Help

Each of us has a potential role to play in the prevention of sexual assault, and there are numerous ways we can make an impact – most notably through bystander intervention. An active bystander is someone who will disrupt a potentially dangerous situation involving sexual violence; they may not be involved directly but have the option to act by voicing their opinion and intervening.

We are all bystanders in life, witnessing events and unsafe situations every day. By intervening safely, you can play a pivotal role in combating interpersonal violence on college campuses or elsewhere. Even though it is important to step in, when necessary, never put your own safety at risk while doing so – looking out for yourself is the top priority! Taking appropriate measures of intervention could mean the difference between an unresolved incident and a safe outcome.

Below are a few ways you can be an effective, active bystander while keeping yourself safe.

Create a Distraction

Distraction is a clever intervention that can interrupt potentially dangerous incidents safely. Its goal is to provide the person in danger with an opening they can take advantage of to get away from the situation securely. Try forming a distraction as soon as possible when you sense something may be amiss.

To diffuse the situation and shift focus away from a threatening or risky individual, engaging them in conversation can be very useful. It’s important not to leave this person alone when using this technique to avoid unnecessary escalations of danger. This method is effective for reducing tension before it has an opportunity to become more severe.

Other things you may be able to do:

  • Cut off the conversation with a diversion – invite the person to go with you into another room, or to another aisle in the store, or for a drive.
  • Bring out some food or drinks and offer it to everyone involved
  • Ask other people to come and join in a conversation – then make up a conversation

Ask If They Want Help

To get involved in a situation, you can simply ask the individual who is at risk if they want assistance. Taking this action can help you decide if an immediate response is necessary. You may pose questions such as: “Do you need help?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”, and even, “Would it help if we leave together and go some place secure?”. These inquiries enable helpful dialogue that could lead to potential danger away from the situation.

To avoid a crisis, it is important to ask the question when the perpetrator is not present or listening. Consider asking them if they need any type of help at that moment. In case their answer is affirmative, you should immediately contact the appropriate emergency personnel for further assistance.

Recruit Help

It isn’t easy to get involved in tense situations alone – solicit help from others if you can.

  • It isn’t easy to get involved in tense situations alone – solicit help from others if you can.
  • If you’re apprehensive about confronting someone in peril, why not ask a friend to come along? Sharing your worries with another can be an effective way of demonstrating support.
  • If possible, have someone step in on your behalf. For instance, you could request that somebody acquainted with the individual at risk accompany them to the restroom.
  • Identify the friend of the person who seems to be in trouble. “Your friend looks like they’ve had too much alcohol to drink. Can you make sure they’re safe?”

Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to enlist an authority figure like a teacher, bouncer, bartender, security guard, firefighter, or store manager. There is safety in numbers, and a lot of people in these helping professions are trained to handle many different types of situations.

When a situation has escalated to the point of danger and physical harm, dial 9-1-1 for help. When on the phone with them, be ready to give your name, where you are located and what is happening. Stay close by until assistance arrives; remain calm and supportive towards those around you who have been harmed or affected in any way.

Extend Support

After such an event, the person may be feeling overwhelmed and uncertain of what to do next. Showing them kindness by providing helpful resources and possible solutions can make a world of difference. Ask if they need assistance making it to their destination or offer support in any way you can think of; you could also provide extra resources so that they have somewhere to turn for comfort after this incident is over. Suggestions might include: “Would it help if I walked with you?” or “Can I do anything else to support you?”.

Help is Available

Remember, you are not alone. We are here for you when you need us. If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual violence and would like support, please call our 24/7 HOTLINE at: 215-985-3333 – all calls are confidential and you can remain anonymous.