Being an active bystander 

Being an active bystander, is just that – doing something when you witness an incident that you know is not right, such as bullying, harassment, racism, hate, sexual harassment and assaults, relationship abuse, or any other unacceptable behaviour. There is always something you can do as a bystander, let’s find out more. 
So how can you change from simply witnessing a situation to being someone who intervenes in a positive way? Follow the guidance below and start to become an active bystander. 

Call It Out! Be an Active Bystander Workshop 

Do you want to be able to call it out and intervene? Take the Call It Out! bystander workshop to feel confident next time you see a situation that does not feel right to you. Check out the Education and Training page for more details. 

Online Bystander Module

Being an active bystander is something that everyone of us can do to help build a campus of inclusive safety to all those who are part of our diverse community. This short 20 minute module will give you the basics of being an active bystander and will show you the impact you can make.
Find the Bystander Course here.

How to become an active bystander

Being an active bystander involves paying attention to your surroundings, noticing when somebody’s behaviour is problematic, or threatening. An active bystander takes action by choosing to step in and intervene in such situations.

Findings show that that bystander intervention can be effective at preventing assault from happening. By taking strategic action, you can help prevent sexual, racial or homophobic harassment.

Simple steps to becoming an active bystander: 
  1. Notice the situation 
  2. Interpret it as a problem 
  3. Feel responsible to act 
  4. Think about intersectionality - different people are vulnerable in different situations
  5. Possess necessary skills to act - the 5Ds of bystander intervention
Always remember, it is important that you only intervene if it is safe for you to do so.

 How you can intervene safely: 
  • Tell another person - being with others is a good idea when a situation could be unsafe.
  • Ask the victim if he/she is okay before getting further involved - provide options and a listening ear.
  • Ask the person if he/she wants to leave with you - make sure that he/she gets home safely.  

The 5Ds of bystander intervention

Distraction  |  Direct Action  |  Delegation  |  Delay  |  Document

To be an active bystander use the 5D approach to help you get involved, make a quick plan on how to approach the situation, and make a measured decision on what you are going to do. We are not looking for people to step into every situation, but stepping up when and where you can. There are many ways to intervene - bystander intervention does not have to be direct or loud. 


Interrupt the behaviour of the harasser.

Distraction can often be more than enough to handle an awkward moment or de-escalate a situation by redirecting the situation. It can be very effective to change the outcome of the situation without getting yourself directly involved. 
How to do it… 
Engage directly with the person who is being targeted and talk to them, ask them something or just get in the way. Ignore the harasser and don’t talk about or refer to the harassment happening. Instead, here are some examples of what you can do. 

Direct Action 

Name what is happening and condemn the harassers actions.

If you choose to take direct action, assess your safety and the situation first, then if safe, speak up and confront the harassment and/or harasser. This tactic can be risky, as the harasser may redirect their abuse towards you or it could escalate the situation. 
How to do it… 
First, before you decide to respond directly, assess the situation. Next you need to take action and speak to the person who is doing the harassing. Then turn your attention towards the person being targeted. If the harasser responds to what you said, do not engage with them, just turn your attention to the person who was targeted. 

* A note about safety:
Direct intervention can be risky, so use this one with caution. We do not ever want you to put yourself in danger or get hurt trying to help someone out. Always think about safety and consider options that are safe.     


Get assistance to intervene.

Find someone else who can help. It can be that simple to make a positive impact. Especially when you do not feel you are able to get more directly involved.  

How to do it…
Find someone in the position of authority such as the manager, security guard, bar tender, staff member at UEA, bus driver, or a transit employee and ask them to intervene. Or get your friend to help you. Have them use one of the methods of distraction to communicate with the person being harassed while you find someone to delegate to.

IMPORTANT Before contacting 999, use Distract to check with the person being targeted to make sure they want the police involved. Some people may not be comfortable or safe to get the police involved.   


Follow up and support the person being targeted after the incident.

If you can’t do anything while the situation is happening, you can still make a difference by checking in on the person who has been harassed. Whether the incident happened quickly or took time to finish, sometimes you cannot do the other 3 Ds, but you can still actively use the Delayed tactic.  


Record the incident and give it to the person being harassed.

First asses the situation. Is someone helping the person being harassed? If not try to use one of the other 5Ds. If someone is helping, assess if it is safe to record. Think about your safety and the safety of those involved in the situation. 
Always ask the person who was harassed what they want you to do with the recording. NEVER POST IT ONLINE without their permission. 


There are two ways you can tell us what happened