A bystander is a person who is present when an event takes place but isn’t directly involved. Bystanders might be present when sexual misconduct or abuse occurs, or they could witness the circumstances that lead up to these crimes.
What is bystander intervention?
Bystander Intervention is recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and choosing to respond in a way that could positively influence the outcome.
The bystander role includes interrupting situations that could lead to assault before it happens or during an incident; speaking out against social norms that support sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; and developing skills to be an effective and supportive ally to survivors.
This will look different depending on the situation and how you’re comfortable taking action: whether directly intervening, creating a distraction, or finding someone who has more authority to act in the situation.
Your Actions Matter
Whether or not you were able to change the outcome, by stepping in you are helping to change the way people think about their role in preventing sexual assault.
- Be Direct.
- Speak up in a situation to directly address the aggressor, calling out the issue and
acting to defuse it
- Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.
- Ask questions like, “who did you come here with?” or “would you like me to stay with you?
- If addressing the issue head-on seems scary, you can always create a distraction to
remove the uncomfortable party from the situation and prevent it from escalating.
- Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.
- Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving,” or “This party stinks. Let’s try somewhere else.”
- Start an activity that draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.
- Enlist Others.
- There are times when situations are best handled by those with more authority or expertise,
whether that’s an advisor, a coach, or even the police. Looping in people better equipped
to defuse an unsafe situation is just as important as stepping in yourself.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for yourself or someone else’s safety.
- Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
- Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.
- Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”
- There are times when situations are best handled by those with more authority or expertise, whether that’s an advisor, a coach, or even the police. Looping in people better equipped to defuse an unsafe situation is just as important as stepping in yourself.
- If addressing the issue head-on seems scary, you can always create a distraction to remove the uncomfortable party from the situation and prevent it from escalating.
- Speak up in a situation to directly address the aggressor, calling out the issue and acting to defuse it
Reducing the risk of sexual misconduct
It’s important to make a plan and take steps to prevent crimes from occurring, including sexual violence. No tips can absolutely guarantee safety—sexual violence can happen to anyone, and it’s not the only crime that can occur on a college campus. It’s important to remember that if you are sexually assaulted on campus it is not your fault—help and support are available. These tips are adapted from RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Staying Safe on Campus.
Increasing On-campus Safety
- Who can you contact if you or a friend need help?
- Safety and Security Reporting 360-623-8888 (from on campus dial 8888 directly)
- Counseling within the Advising/Counseling Center, 360-623-8967 (from campus dial 8967 directly)
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)
- Stay alert, be aware of your surroundings
- Be careful about posting your location on social media
- Think about your safety in advance and plan for situations that may arise
- Lock your doors and windows
Safety in Social Settings
- Make a plan. Go places with people you trust. Agree to watch out for each other
- Protect your drink
- Know your limits
- It’s ok to lie to get out of an uncomfortable or unsafe situation
- Be a good friend and look out for each other
Julie Huss, Vice President for Human Resources & Legal Affairs
Robert Cox, Vice President for Student Services