Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention is a social science model that predicts the likelihood of individuals (or groups) willing to actively address a situation they deem problematic. A bystander is anyone who observes any situation. We all observe thousands of incidents on the daily, but usually do not acknowledge the situation as needing our response. An active bystander is someone who acknowledges a problematic situation and chooses how to respond. They must decide if they will speak up, step in, or offer assistance.

Research has found that people struggle with whether helping out is their responsibility. This concept, called diffusion of responsibility means that if several people are present, an individual is much less likely to help believing someone else will.  In other situations bystanders may fail to intervene if the situation feels ambiguous and the bystander is worried about misjudging the situation.  Fearing consequences, social stigma, embarrassment, or even a threat to safety, it can be legitimately difficult to determine how and when to intervene. In addition, most of us have not grown up in communities where people are constantly confronted on sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist, and/or misogynistic language and behavior. 

Bystander Intervention programs teach people to overcome their resistance to checking in and helping out. They raise an individual's self efficacy―confidence in one's ability to perform the necessary action. These programs have been found to be very helpful on college campuses to mitigate incidents of sexual assault, abusive alcohol consumption, and concerns about suicide, depression and eating disorders.

Have you ever stopped a friend from going home with someone when they were very drunk?  Have you ever gotten a friend to Urgent Care or taken care of them for the night because you knew they were too drunk to be left alone? Have you been willing to call out racism, homophobia, sexism, and/or transphobia in someone's jokes? Have you interrupted when you notice someone is being bullied? These are all examples of being an active bystander.   

Together, we can create a community that does not tolerate violence, oppression, or harm. Or to say it simply, be nice.