Bystander Intervention

“From its inception, UASK was designed to be the most comprehensive website and smart phone technology for preventing all forms of sexual assault and gender-based violence. Individuals and entire campus communities can access comprehensive resources with just a touch of a screen, enabling anyone to be an active bystander. These tools create healthy, productive environments where people can interrupt violence even before it happens. Read on for bystander intervention tools.”

-Neil Irvin, Executive Director, Men Can Stop Rape


  • Bystander intervention provides everyone with the awareness, skills, and ability to constructively and safely intervene in situations where social norms that support sexual assault are being expressed or acted out.

Traditional Bystander Intervention

    • In instances where someone may be immediately at risk for sexual assault or other forms of gender-based violence, bystanders can intervene to provide a chance for the person at risk to leave the situation.
    • Latane and Darley (1968), first to identify the bystander effect,described cognitive and behavioral processes leading a bystander to intervene in an emergency:
      • STEP ONE: Notice that something is happening
      • STEP TWO: Interpret the situation as an emergency
      • STEP THREE: Assume a degree of responsibility
      • STEP FOUR: Choose a form of assistance
      • STEP FIVE: Act.
    • When intervening in a situation where someone seems at risk of being assaulted, it is important to have a plan. Consider the three Ds:
      • Distract: casually distracting or redirecting the attention of the person who may cause harm. Example: call the friend's cell who is at risk to ask them a question or suggest it's time to go. You can also distract the person who might cause harm: "Hey man, didn't I see you at [fill in the blank]?"
      • Delegate: Alerting others you are going to intervene and engaging a group of people to assist. Example: ask friends to help. They can ask the person at risk to leave with them.
      • Direct: Directly pointing out the inappropriate behavior. Example: explain why someone's actions are unacceptable: "It's not okay to keep harassing and threatening her. She made it clear she isn't interested."
    • Approaches to bystander intervention in this form should prioritize the safety and well-being of the person you believe is in harm’s way. The tactics you choose to employ when intervening should be taken in the spirit of de-escalating the situation. Be aware that before intervening, you may have legitimate personal safety concerns for yourself and should take those into account as well.

Pro-Social Bystander Intervention

    • Bystander intervention is a keystone of sexual assault prevention and includes more than interrupting sexual violence while someone is at risk. In fact, more actionable forms of bystander intervention disrupt social norms that condone or support rape or other forms of sexual violence
    • This form of bystander intervention seeks to build a pro-social culture in which sexual violence is not permissible
    • Tactics for interrupting rape-supporting words and attitudes include:
      • Questioning/clarifying: People who express attitudes connected to rape culture expect people to go along with them, to laugh, to agree, to join in. Saying, “I’m not clear about what you mean by that. Maybe you could explain?” or some other form of clarification helps to change the dynamic and flow of conversation. This also encourages people to think about the assumptions that underlie their statements and attitudes. It is especially important to question in a non-aggressive way.
      • Making "I" Statements: No one enjoys when someone confronts or accuses them. Gently call attention to the comments or behaviors of someone while sidestepping a defensive response by opting for a statement that focuses on you. Let the person know why their actions made you feel uncomfortable by
      1. stating your feelings;
      2. naming their behavior; and
      3. identifying an action the person can take in response. 
      • Challenging Media Representations of Sexual Violence: In news, entertainment, and other forms of media, challenge statements or representations that mislead or mischaracterize victims of sexual violence. For example, join the #NoSuchThing campaign by Rights4Girls in calling for accountability from news and other media outlets when phrases like “child prostitute” or “underage woman” are used to describe children who have been sexually assaulted by adults.

Digital Intervention

    • Digital bystanders are people who witness harmful behavior perpetrated online. With the multitude of social media and other technology platforms, internet users are exposed to and participate in broad online communities.
    • Digital bystanders have the opportunity to act in situations where harmful actions or attitudes exist in online content or commentary. Consider the following options:
      • Reporting or flagging content that does not abide by a platform's community guidelines. Most platforms have limitations on content that is vulgar or abusive.
      • Challenging problematic digital content by raising awareness
        • It may be helpful to raise awareness about problematic content—such as posts with rape supporting attitudes or language—by reposting it to generate discussion. Keep in mind that reposting harmful content may extend the harmful impact, rather than challenging it and creating conversation.
      • Recording or screenshotting
        • Digital bystanders can provide support by documenting situations of abuse or harm. Taking screenshots and screen recordings can provide a helpful testament to someone's experience if you suspect or detect that they are in harm's way
        • Learn how to screenshot on computer and mobile devices—useful for capturing posts, photos, or comments
        • Learn how to screen record on computer and mobile devices—useful for capturing video content

Tools: UASK

    • When seeking to intervene, it is helpful to have resources at the ready. The UASK DC app is free, confidential, and available in 8 languages. This app facilitates bystander intervention by offering a host of support services and resources at your fingertips. Quickly refer to the app to offer guidance or support to someone in need of help—whether that be a medical exam, reporting information, or other direct services.

Men Can Stop Rape

#NoSuchThing Campaign

New York State Department of Health Sexual Bystander Intervention Toolkit

The National Network to End Domestic Violence

It's On Us

Every Intervention Is a Success – because by intervening you give others permission to do the same.