Bystander intervention

What is bystander intervention?

The bystander intervention model focuses on helping community members understand and become more sensitive to issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating  violence, and stalking by teaching prevention and interruption skills. The bystander role includes interrupting situations that could lead to assault before it happens or during an incident; speaking out against social norms that support sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; and having skills to be an effective and supportive ally to survivors. 1 of every 3 sexual assaults occur in the presence of a bystander.  This means that 33% of sexual assaults could potentially be prevented by the intervention of a bystander.


Find an intervention style that fits you:

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 Intervention:

Never blame the victim.

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.


*This information is adapted from the Virginia Tech (n.d.). Bystander Intervention Playbook. Adapted from William and Mary Sexual Assault Services (2008).