Bystander Intervention

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What is Bystander Intervention?

Did you know:

  • More than 90% of sexual misconduct is committed by someone the person knew
  • 60% of assaults occur in the home of either the victim or the perpetrator

In many of the circumstances that can lead to sexual assault, there’s a high probability that bystanders— friends, teammates, sorority sisters, fraternity brothers, or just everyday people who happen to be walking by— will witness something that doesn’t look quite right.

  • You’re at a bar, and one of your sorority sisters has had too much to drink. A man starts dancing with her and is about to lead her out, even though she doesn’t look coherent.
  • While at an apartment party, you notice people being told to drink from a certain container. You overhear someone comment that the container contains something “special,” but you’re not sure what that means.
  • You’re hanging out with some of your fraternity brothers, and one of them mentions how he can’t wait for the party on Thursday night so that he can get some of your female friends “wasted” and have sex with as many of them as possible.
  • You see someone in your residence hall stumbling into the bathroom after a hard night of partying and they cannot stop throwing up.

Take the Initiative

If you ever find yourself in a situation like the ones described above, take the initiative to step in and intervene. Although it can be awkward or inconvenient to confront a friend or peer, your action may remove a potential situation of harm, along with all of the resulting physical, emotional, academic and even criminal consequences for the people involved.

Steps to Intervene

Living the Lion’s Code means creating a campus environment where every member of our community feels included, valued and safe. We all play a critical role in identifying situations that have a potential for harm, and intervening if something doesn’t look or feel quite right.

Don’t just be a bystander, step in to protect people who need help. Your actions could prevent someone from becoming a victim of sexual assault.

  1. Be aware of event around you.
  2. Take responsibility for the well-being of everyone in the community.
  3. Step in and help others.

Four Intervention Strategies

Separate

  • Step in directly and separate the persons involved.
  • If you feel comfortable, let them know your concerns and reasons for intervening in the situation.
  • Be a friend— let them know that you’re stepping in because you care about them.

Recruit

  • Let some friends know what’s going on and recruit their help.
  • Step in as a group and separate the persons involved.

Distract

  • Use a distraction to re-direct the focus of one person elsewhere
  • Use phrases such as “Hey, I need to talk to you” or “Hey, let’s go somewhere else.”
  • If you need to, commit a “party foul” like spilling your drink on one of the people you’re trying to separate.

Support

  • If the situation looks unsafe, call a chaperone, the Department of Public Safety or law enforcement for assistance.
  • Clearly let the authority figure know your concerns and stay present until help arrives.

Be an Effective Bystander

Whether you’re at a party, hanging out with friends in your dorm or at a bar, you have the power to prevent friends and peers from falling into situations of harm.

Question to Ask Yourself

If you’re faced with a situation where you feel you might need to intervene, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the benefits of intervening in this situation? What are the costs? What are the costs of NOT intervening?
  • How would you feel if you were the victim in this situation? What would you be thinking? What would you want others to do for you?
  • How would you react if this was happening to a member of your family?
  • What does staying silent communicate in this situation?
  • What can you do to make the intervention safe and effective?

Why Bystanders May Not Intervene 

Here are some reasons why bystanders often do not intervene when faced with a potentially risky situation:

  1. They are not positive about what is going on.
  2. They don’t think it is any of their business.
  3. They are afraid for their own safety or reputation.
  4. No one else seems to be concerned.
  5. They don’t really know what to do.

Keep in Mind

Instead, here are some things that you as an active bystander should keep in mind:

  • Be aware of comments and behaviors from others that would indicate they were intent on having sexual intercourse even if the partner was unwilling.
  • Notice if someone is getting ready to have sexual intercourse with a partner who is incapacitated.
  • Don’t pressure or encourage friends to drink or have sex as often or with as many people as possible.
  • Don’t joke about sexual assault; comments and jokes that are meant to “ease the tension” or are “just kidding around” can trivialize the severity of the behavior.
  • Know your level of comfort with conversations and talk about sexual behavior. If you find groups or individuals who talk about sexual relationships that are not in sync with how you feel, or the type of relationship you want, don’t be afraid to state your position.
  • Many perpetrators are unaware that what they have done is a crime. (They may say something like, “Yeah, that was messed up, but it was fun.”) Let them know that what they did was not right and was against the law

Remember, we are all responsible for the well-being of our campus community.

If you see a situation that poses a risk for sexual or interpersonal misconduct, step in and speak up!

Adapted from Step Up! Be A Leader, Make a Difference!, University of Arizona C.A.T.S. Life Skills Program

Successful Bystander Intervention

Here are some illustrations of successful bystander intervention:

Situation: At a Bar

  • Situation: You’re at a bar, and one of your sorority sisters has had too much to drink. A man starts dancing with her and is about to lead her out, even though she doesn’t look coherent.
  • Intervention: You approach the couple and tell your sorority sister that you’d like to leave, and make sure she comes home with you.

Situation: At a Party

  • Situation: While at an apartment party, you notice that people being told to drink from a certain container. You overhear someone comment that the container contains something “special,” but you’re not sure what that means.
  • Intervention: You approach the party host and ask them what’s been mixed in the drink. When you find out it’s a high-content alcohol that’s designed to make people pass out without their knowledge, you tell them that they’re creating a dangerous situation for everyone at the party, and ask them to take the container away.

Situation: With Your Fraternity Brothers

  • Situation: You’re hanging out with some of your fraternity brothers, and one of them mentions how he can’t wait for the party on Thursday night so that he can get some of your female friends “wasted” and have sex with as many of them as possible.
  • Intervention: You confront your fraternity brother and tell him that what he’s planning to do is not okay and is in fact against the law.

Situation: In Your Residence Hall

  • Situation: You see someone in your residence hall stumbling into the bathroom after a hard night of partying and they cannot stop throwing up.
  • Intervention: You stay with them in the bathroom until you determine that they are okay, and make sure they get back to their room safely. If they have alcohol poisoning, let the resident advisor know and accompany them to the emergency room straight away.