What is Bystander Intervention?
A Bystander is anyone who observes an emergency or any situation where someone is in need of help. 'Bystander Intervention' is simply when a Bystander makes the decision to get involved and intervene in the situation. Unfortunately, research often suggests that the more people that are around during an emergency situation, the less likely a bystander is to intervene. Why is that? It's based on something called "diffusion of responsibility": when there are several people around, each person believes that someone else will get involved. Since the assumption is that another person will act, individuals tend to hold back and wait on others to act. Some other reasons that bystanders choose not to intervene include feeling unprepared to handle the crisis ("I'm sure someone knows more than me"), thinking the situation is too ambiguous or that they are misjudging it ("What going on here? Is this even really a problem?"), or believing that the person in question is responsible for their situation, so they are getting what they deserve. A good rule to follow when it comes to Bystander Intervention is to err on the side of caution. Be the first to act. "I wish I had..." is a terrible feeling to walk away with.
How can I get involved?
While there are specific training programs for Bystander Intervention, it is not necessary to complete a formal program before getting involved. Anyone can get involved. YOU can get involved.
When to intervene
- When you feel uncomfortable about what's going on. Trust your gut.
- When you hear someone joking about sexual assault
- When you hear degrading language
- When someone is pressuring another person to drink
- When it seems like someone is trying to have sex without their partner's consent
- When someone is getting ready to have sex with an intoxicated person
- When someone has been drinking too much, and you are concerned about their safety. Don't "guess" if they have alcohol poisoning. Get them some help. Call 911 or have a sober driver take them to the emergency room. TTU has an amnesty policy that you can review here, Part I, Section C, 2.
Find a method that 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.
Tips for intervening*
- Approach everyone as a friend
- Don't be antagonistic (confrontational, looking for a fight, etc.)
- Avoid using violence
- Be honest and direct when possible
- Recruit others to help you when needed
- Keep yourself safe
- If you are in over your head, if things get too serious, or if a situation needs more assistance than you can provide, don't hesitate to contact the police.
- Request a Raider's Respond workshop for your class, student organization, or Sorority/Fraternity. Not involved in a group? Contact RISE@ttu.edu for information about upcoming training opportunities, or our calendar of upcoming events!
Want to see what this looks like in action?
Here's a video showing how you could intervene with someone based on the relationship you have with them. Hint: you can intervene in an adapted way to help anyone!
Here's a video showing what campus can look like when Red Raiders look out for one another. Safety is everyone's responsibility!
*Virginia Tech (n.d.). Bystander Intervention Playbook. Adapted from William and Mary Sexual Assault Services (2008).