Bystander Intervention

Have you ever been in a situation where you wished someone stepped up and said something? What about a time you wanted to, but you were nervous to say something and didn’t know what to say? The show “What Would You Do” that came out in 2008, was a perfect example of how sometimes we want to stand up for people and we do or don’t for various reasons. Sometimes, it can feel scary to stand up for a stranger, a coworker, a friend, etc. Sometimes it can feel like you are the only one. I have been in situations like that where it almost feels like you won’t be able to deescalate the situation or that you’ll make it worse. I’m going to review what Bystander Intervention is and the steps you can follow to give you the courage to stand up for someone in the future. 

What is Bystander Intervention?  

Bystander intervention is recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and choosing to respond in a way that could positively influence the outcome. An engaged bystander is someone who lives up to that responsibility by intervening before, during, or after a situation when they see or hear behaviors that threaten, harass, or otherwise encourage violence.

How to be a great bystander: 

It may not be safe or effective to directly confront the harasser in every case, but there are a range of ways bystanders can be involved before, during, or after a situation when they see or hear behaviors that promote sexual violence. Below are some intervention tips and strategies, aka the 3 Ds:

  1. Disrupt the situation. Every situation is different, and there is no one way to respond. When you witness a person being harassed, threatened, or followed by someone, you can try to distract the harasser or insert yourself into their interaction to help the targeted person get out of the situation. For example, if you see someone on the street being verbally harassed, you can interrupt the harasser/person being harassed and ask them for directions. You can also intervene by pretending to know the person being harassed and starting a conversation with them as an opportunity to come between them and the harasser.
  2. Delegate. Get someone to help you. The point of Bystander Intervention is not to get hurt. For example, if a person has a weapon, that is not the appropriate time to be direct with someone but to call the police. Get support from people around you by calling on others to help. The more people who come together to interrupt a situation, the more you reinforce the idea that the behavior is not acceptable in your community. This can be as simple as saying, “Let’s say something to them, so they stop.” 
  3. Direct. Whether or not you know the harasser, you can intervene by telling them in a respectful, direct, and honest way that their words or actions are not okay. For example, you are in a store, and a person who doesn’t speak English is asking for the help of one of the clerks. You then hear the clerk saying, “I hate talking to customers who don’t speak English. They are so annoying.” You can tell them something like this: 
    • That’s so inappropriate. 
    • What you just said made me feel uncomfortable. Here’s why… 
    • Do you realize how problematic that is? 
    • Why would you say that?
    • I need your store managers contact information. 

Remember- if not you, then who?
By Semehar Ghebrekidan 

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