What is an active bystander?
- Take the initiative to help someone who may be targeted for violence by an aggressor.
- Take the initiative to help friends who aren't thinking clearly from becoming perpetrators of violent, or taking steps to stop a friend who chooses to use violence.
- Don't only step in to stop a crime in progress; rather, they also "intervene early" — before the crime begins.
Recognizing/assess the situation
- Is the behavior mutual or wanted?
- It is safe to intervene?
- What are the pros and cons of intervening?
- Is there someone else who can help intervene?
Talking with a perpetrator
“What you said earlier really bothered me...”
“I don’t like what you just did.”
“I know you well enough to know that you would not want to hurt someone...”
“I wonder if you realize how that feels/comes across.”
“How would you feel if someone did that to your sister?”
“I am saying something because I care about you...”
Talking with a Victim
Approach everyone as a friend!
“Do you need help?”
“Do you want me to call someone for you?”
“What can I do to help you?”
“Can I walk you home?”
“Do you want me to talk to so-and-so for you?”
“Is everything OK?”
“Should I call the police?”
“Are you alright?”
Helping a friend/victim
- Listen. A friend may confide in you ten minutes or ten years after the violence occurs. At that time, it doesn't matter so much what you say but how well you listen. Allow the person to talk, but do not push for details.
- Believe her or him. Survivors need to validate their experience. Be sure your friend knows how much you support her or him and take their concerns seriously.
- Don't blame the survivor. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, abused or stalked. Avoid searching for things your friend should have done. Survivors often blame themselves and need to know it was not their fault.
- Let the survivor control the situation. Let your friend determine the pace of healing. Help your friend understand the options available, and encourage your friend to keep her or his options open. Most important, allow your friend to make her or his own decisions. (If your friend is being abused or stalked, express your concern for their safety and encourage them to get help.)
- Encourage the survivor to get medical attention as soon as possible if a recent assault was sexual or physical. Your friend can receive medical attention from a private doctor, clinic, or hospital emergency room. By law, Emergency Room staff must contact the police when they treat sexual assault victims. The police will ask your friend to file a report, but she or he does not have to talk to the police or file a report if she or he does not want to.
- Know where your friend can access outside help. Your friend may need medical attention or counseling. Offer to help your friend access the Wellness Center or other services. Regardless of how much time has passed since the assault, the survivor can receive counseling and referrals from the Wellness Center.
- Talk to a friend to ensure he or she is doing okay
- Make up an excuse to help the friend get away from someone
- Call the police, campus safety, a Resident Assistant or someone who can better handle the situation
- Recommend to a bartender or party host that someone has had too much to drink
- Point out someone's disrespectful behavior in a safe and respectful manner that tends to de-escalate the situation
- Remove a victim/friend from a risky situation quickly
Active Bystander Care
- Understand your own feelings. You may also feel confused, hurt, angry, or frightened. Such feelings are normal.
- Don't be afraid to ask for outside help. Find someone other than the survivor to talk with about your feelings. Talking with someone else may help you understand your own emotions and give you a clearer perspective on the situation. Counseling is available at the Wellness Center.
- Know and respect your own limits. There is only so much you can do to help your friend. You can provide support, compassion, and companionship when your friend wants it, but try not to make commitments that you can't fulfill.
- Remember that it was not your fault. You may feel guilty, thinking that somehow you could have prevented your friend's sexual assault or other violent experience. Only the perpetrator is responsible. Don't forget that you are not responsible for someone else's actions.
Remember that coping with sexual assault is a long-term process.
* Adapted from University of New Hampshire's “Bringing in the Bystander.” More information is available from: http://www.unh.edu/preventioninnovations