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.
As a bystander, we may:
- Think it is none of our business
- Hope that someone else will deal with it
- Miss an opportunity to change the community we live in for the better
An active bystander is a person who takes the steps that can make a difference.
As an active bystander, we may:
- Positively impact the individuals we are concerned about
- Become a role model for others to have confidence to speak up
- Create a community that values taking care of one another
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.
Below are some interventions with examples of possible statements or actions to use if you see a situation that is concerning to you and feel that you can safely intervene.
- Directly Intervene: “What you are doing is wrong.” “S/he doesn’t look well, they need to be taken care of.”
- Separate: “Hey, aren’t you in my psych class? I need to talk to you about the mid-term.”
- Gather support: Turn to the person next to you and say, “Hey, I’m name, will you help me?” There is power in numbers when intervening.
- Group Intervention: “Hey, we are heading out, why don’t you come with us? You can call him/her tomorrow.”
- Provide a Distraction: Spill a drink and ask for help cleaning it up.
- Delay the situation: “Hey, can you help me find the bathroom?”
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 http://web.mit.edu/bystanders/definition/index.html, mencanstoprape.org, jacksonkatz.com, and stepupprogram.org.
This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-WA-AX-0024 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.