Bystander: anyone who observes an emergency/situation where someone is in need of help.
Why don't people help out?
The Bystander Effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an unsafe situation or emergency. Typically the greater number of people/bystanders present, makes it less likely for someone in distress to receive help from those around them. People are more likely to take action in a crisis when there are fewer people present. We recognize in college there are many times you may need to help someone, or someone may need to help you!
Others reasons bystanders do not intervene:
- Feeling unprepared to handle the crisis: "I'm sure someone knows more than me."
- Misjudging the situation: "What going on here? Is this even really a problem?"
- Believing the person in question is responsible for their situation: "They deserve it."
This is someone who witnesses a situation who steps up/speaks up/advocates/ and helps keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.
These are people who choose, to ignore the situation or do nothing about it.
How Can I Help Out?
Remember this RAIDERS acronym to remember what to do.
Recognize a Problem
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Look for red flags.
- You hear someone joking about sexual assault.
- You hear degrading language.
- Someone is being pressured to drink.
- Someone is taking home an intoxicated person.
- One or more people are raising their voice in an aggressive manner.
- Trust your gut! If you feel uncomfortable, there is likely an opportunity to intervene.
- If not you – then who?
- If you see something –step up!
- Ask others what they think/read the room.
- It is best to check in and make sure someone is okay rather than making an assumption
- What kind of information should you have?
- Where is nearest hospital?
- Do you need a clear exit?
- Who can you call for help?
- Do you need to call the police or EMS?
- What local resources can you refer people to?
- Other points to consider
- Is it safe for me to help this person?
- What aspects can I control?
Determine a Plan
- Choose a course of action and make a plan.
- Stay calm, cool, and collected.
- Gather information and consider options.
- Give clear and direct requests.
- Don't judge the person(s).
- Know appropriate referrals.
- You can ALWAYS call 911!
- Who do you need? Recruit them!
- Give people specific and clear instructions.
- If they don't respond move to the next person.
- If you're the person in need – call people out with identifiers.
- "You with the blue jacket! I need your help!
- Empower others to help, and always thank those who responded.
Tips for Intervening
- Approach everyone as a friend.
- Do not be antagonistic/confrontational.
- Avoid violence at all costs.
- Be honest and direct, when possible.
- Keep yourself safe.
Sustain the Culture
- Hold people accountable for their actions – big and small.
- Respect boundaries, communicate safety, and set clear expectations.
- Follow through and check in.
- Have courage, compassion, and know that love and acceptance heals a world of violence and hate.
Still not sure how you could intervene or have questions?
Which bystander method fits your style?*
- The Divider: step in and separate the two people. Tell them why you're getting involved. Let them know you are trying to keep them safe! Find a way to help them get home.
- The Interrupter: Distract them to get them to focus on something else. You may say things like "It's too hot in here! Let's get some fresh air!" or "I don't want to go to the bathroom by myself. Come with me!" or even "My friend text me about a better party going on somewhere else. Let's check it out." Find a statement that works for you and your personality. It may be easier to come up with one ahead of time, instead of trying to think on the spot.
- The Evaluator: Evaluate the situation and people involved to figure out your best course of action. It may be that you directly intervene or you get some of their friends to come and help. If it doesn't seem to be working, step back and try a different approach.
- The Recruiter: Get friends of both of the people to come help you, and step in as a big group.
- The Disrupter: Distract one of the people, and have a buddy distract the other person. Commit a party foul, like spilling your drink, if needed.
Support After An Incident
*Virginia Tech (n.d.). Bystander Intervention Playbook. Adapted from William and Mary Sexual Assault Services (2008).