Bystander Intervention

Bystanders can engage in safe and positive actions to prevent harm and intervene when there is a risk of violence such as dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. One of the first things you can do as a bystander is, if someone tells you they were a victim of violence, listen, without judgment, understanding that person experienced something distressing, and help that person identify resources and services, such as the Office for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention (OVAVP).

Common bystander strategies, often referred to as the “4 D’s,” include:

  • Direct: This is when someone steps in and directly intervenes to call out the situation, such as, “please stop with the raised voice, I can’t hear myself think.” Be careful if taking a direct approach to not put yourself or the person you are trying to help in danger.
  • Distract: Doing anything (safe) that distracts someone else enough from continuing abusive behavior. This can be anything from saying, “Hey, you have something weird on the back of your shirt that is crawling around” to “someone is looking for you in another room.” If someone is distracted looking at, or focused on something else, this leaves room for the person in potential danger to get out of the situation, with you, or a group of friends.
  • Delegate: Figure out a safe plan to help someone out of a bad situation with others who have greater social power, such as a party host, security guard, police officer, or group of mutual friends that can keep the situation from escalating and are better equipped to de-escalate the situation.
  • Delay: Speaking with the person who is potentially in a distressing situation and asking that person a question like, “Hey, are you okay?” or “Can I do something?,” when a natural opportunity presents itself to speak when it is safe. “Delay” strategies can also take the form of finding others to assist with an intervention and to inform a plan of safe and respectful action.

Please keep in mind that there is no perfect bystander strategy. What is most important is to choose the safest option based on the situation you are encountering. If you don’t know what to do, ask others for ideas or assistance. You can always contact OVAVP.

Always ask yourself, before taking any action, is it safe for me to intervene? If so, what is the safest approach? Want to become more involved as an Active Bystander at UTRGV? Consider taking part in the Superhero Project!