bystander intervention

bystander intervention

Most of us have been in a situation where we could have intervened in a problematic situation but didn’t, then later had regrets and thought “If only I had done something, said something, somehow taken some action.”  You can take steps to prevent yourself from having those regrets if you:

  1. Notice when a situation could lead to something bad happening.
    Maybe it’s a situation which seems likely to lead to violence, or it’s just a situation in which someone else clearly feels uncomfortable.  Sometimes, we can’t say exactly what’s wrong about a situation, but our gut instinct or intuition is telling us something’s not right.
  2. Identify the situation as a problem that needs intervention.
    If the situation continues, you may observe the seriousness is escalating, or conclude the behavior is not going to stop on its own.  At that point you have to recognize that the situation calls for some type of action.
  3. Take responsibility for intervening.
    It can be easy to assume that someone else will intervene so you don’t have to, especially if we’re just one of a group of people witnessing the event.  Ask yourself how you would want someone else to respond if it were you or someone you loved that was caught up in the situation.  When you can, be a leader.
  4. Know how to intervene.
    You don’t always have to confront someone directly to intervene, but if you can identify ways to intervene with which you are comfortable and which enable you to preserve your safety, you’re more likely to take some action.

Take action to intervene. 
Bystanders can intervene any number of ways, but the strategies generally fall into one of three categories:

  • DISTRACT.  Create a distraction or redirect the focus of either party to ensure s/he can get out of the situation.  If appropriate, use humor or an excuse to divert the attention of the perpetrator, creating an opportunity for the potential victim to be removed from the situation.
  • DIRECT.  Confront the harmful behavior directly, so the potential victim is able to leave the situation or the perpetrator can choose to stop his/her behavior.  This can include stepping in to separate the individuals and using assertive language.
  • DELEGATE.  Ask others to get involved to help take charge of the situation (a friend, a police officer, an RA, or someone else). 

Above all, Safety First!

You don’t have to be a superhero!  Here are some ways to assure your safety while also trying to help others:

  1. Recruit friends to help.
  2. Approach others in a friendly manner.
  3. Avoid using violence.
  4. Don’t hesitate to contact CAMPUS POLICE at (812) 888-5555 if you have sense of dangerousness or the potential for violence.


  • Trust your gut.  If your gut is telling you something is not right, then there’s probably something you need to pay attention to.
  • Your attempts to intervene don’t have to work perfectly, but the important thing is that you DO SOMETHING, however silly or unplanned.

With thanks to Princeton University.

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