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Being an Active Bystander

At UT, we look out for each other, VOLS HELP VOLS!

A bystander is a person who observes a behavior that is unacceptable and could be potentially harmful to another person’s health or well-being.
Examples include alcohol abuse, hazing, violence, sexual assault, relationship abuse, and discrimination.

An active bystander is a person who takes the steps that can make a difference.

Volunteers Speak UP! encourages the students, faculty, and staff of our Volunteer community to trust the voice within themselves that senses when something is wrong and to pay attention to their surroundings in order to overcome the barriers that keep them from helping the person for which they are concerned.

As an active bystander, you:

  • Trust the voice within yourself
    • Ever have that gut feeling that something isn’t right? An active bystander trusts their inner voice that something is wrong.
  • Acknowledge the situation
    • An active bystander must always pay attention to their environment so that they are ready to Speak UP!
  • Evaluate your options
    • There is almost always a safe way to intervene. Making your own safety a priority, what options do you have available?
  • Assume responsibility for providing help
    • Now that you have evaluated your options. You are taking responsibility. Don’t assume someone else will. Moments are often fleeting, if you don’t act, no one else might either.
  • Respond appropriately
    • Respond safely and in a way that addresses the problem. This may mean helping the person leave the situation, confronting a behavior, defusing a situation, or asking others for support or help.

Sources: Ancona, D. G., Kochan, T. A., Scully, M., Van Maneen, J., and Westney, D. E. (2004), Managing the Future: Organizational Behavior and Processes, 2nd edition, Southwestern. Retrieved from,,, and

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