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Spelman Speaks Up

Helping Others

Bystander Intervention Strategies

Has there ever been a time when you felt, or even knew, something was wrong and wanted to help but didn’t? You’re not alone. This situation is more common than you might think and is known as the “bystander effect.” It is especially common in group settings, where everyone assumes someone else will do something or assumes that, since no one is doing anything, it is not a problem. 

Below are the five steps to overcoming the bystander effect and doing something to make a difference in the life of a community member.

Notice the Event
Be aware of your surroundings and look out for your friends. Pay attention to situations that may easily escalate. What may start off as a disagreement may escalate into a physical altercation.

Interpret It as a Problem
Interpreting something as a problem is as simple as acknowledging a gut feeling that something is wrong.

Assume Personal Responsibility
Once you have recognized that there is a problem, regardless of how many other people are around, you have assumed no one else will help.

Know How to Help
Help can be direct or indirect. Direct help means you are intervening in the situation to address the problem. Indirect means that you call for assistance from someone else.

Step Up
Whether the help is direct or indirect, the most important thing is to step up and do something. If you or someone you care about was in trouble, what would you want someone to do for you?

Strategies for Effective Helping and Intervention

We want to promote a culture of community accountability where bystanders are actively engaged in the prevention of violence, realizing that we are all responsible for each other in addition to ourselves.

Direct: Intervene directly to make the parties aware that there is a problem and it has been noticed. For example, if you know a friend has had too much to drink, you can direct them to get in a LYFT with you or tell the bartender not to serve them any more alcohol.

Delegate: Identify other bystanders (people present) who can assist you in safely intervening. For example, you may see a couple arguing and you are concerned it may escalate. It is ok to put others on notice about your concern. Ask one of their friends to check in on the situation or call the police.

Distract: Interrupt the situation without directly confronting the parties involved. For example, you are at a party and you see someone looks like they are being cornered by someone hitting on them. You could tell the person doing the cornering their friends are looking for them. You could tell the person being cornered their friends is in trouble and needs them.

Delay: If you are unable to intervene immediately, do not hesitate to talk to someone after the fact (e.g. the next day.) Sometimes delayed intervention in non-emergencies can be just as effective.

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