In a nutshell: Bystander Intervention is a philosophy and strategy for the prevention of various types of violence, including bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The bystander intervention strategy has proven promising in changing behaviors and norms as well as reducing the occurrence of sexual assault.
All community members have a specific role which they can identify and adopt in preventing the problem of sexual violence. This role involves interrupting situations that could lead to assault before it happens or during an incident, speaking out against social norms that support sexual violence, and possessing the skills to be an effective support to survivors. This is all to counter the “bystander effect” – where individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present (especially when there are large groups of bystanders).
Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to people who give reasonable assistance to those who are injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated. In some cases, Good Samaritan laws encourage people to offer assistance. The intention of Good Samaritan laws are to reduce a bystander’s hesitation to assist for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death.
Violence does not discriminate and combating violence is everybody’s problem.
Every incident and every statistic has a person behind it who has endured suffering from abuse. These acts of violence hurt us all and they are occurring in epidemic proportions spreading out of control if not stopped. We have no choice but to say, “STOP THE VIOLENCE.” Addressing and discussing an issue is the first step in creating change.
Five steps have been identified which bystanders must go through before they are able to take action:
It is not surprising that these steps are overwhelming to most people. Probably, we can all recall a situation in our lives when we were unsure of what to do or say in a situation involving our family, friends, or neighbors. Missing that opportunity to support the victim can be devastating when you realize that saying a few words at an opportune time could have stopped the violent or damaging behavior from continuing.
Other factors also influence whether a bystander decides to intervene or mitigate a high risk situation, such as:
The presence and number of other bystanders;
The uncertainty of the situation;
The perceived level of urgency or danger to the victim; and
The setting of the event.
We may not act in a potentially violent situation when other people are present because we believe someone else is better equipped to respond. How we perceive ourselves influences the ability to act. These reasons may include our age, gender, level of skill or experience, relationship to the victim or the perpetrator, personal feelings or attitudes, safety concerns, or belief that the personal outcome to the victim of intervening has a greater benefit than doing nothing.
Caring bystanders outnumber individuals who inflict violence on others. We can make a choice to become part of the solution. As a group of individuals, we must make a conscious effort to stand with each other to stop violence. Through our words, our choices, and our actions, in any given moment, individuals can make a pledge to stand up for those who experience every form of violence.
Your active participation is necessary.
Your voice is powerful.
Your commitment is required for real change to take place.
Together, let’s end violence one day, one incident at a time until we grow from a handful to dozens, to hundreds, to literally thousands of engaged bystanders.
Learn how to get involved.