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Tips for Effective Pro-social Bystander Intervention

Effective intervention requires a 5-step decision-making process:

  1. Notice the Event.
  2. Interpret the Event as a problem.
  3. Assume personal responsibility for intervening.
  4. Identify a safe and appropriate method for intervention.
  5. Use acquired skills to effectively intervene.

Rules for Effective Bystander Intervention:

  • DO NOT intervene in a way that puts yourself or others at risk of physical harm
  • DO NOT intervene in a way that escalates the situation or makes it worse—Use direct confrontation only if other methods of intervention are not appropriate under the circumstances
  • DO look for early warning signs of trouble
  • DO intervene at the earliest point possible
  • DO ask for help from other bystanders or responsible persons (such as Police or Public Safety)
  • DO remember that effective intervention does not always require dramatic action—even small gestures or comments can have a large impact on the outcome of a troubling situation (before and/or after the fact)

Bystander Intervention Techniques (the 4 D’s):

  1. Distract- Interrupt the situation without directly confronting the parties involved.  Example:  Stepping in to ask questions that can divert a person’s attention and shift their behavior toward less risky situations (getting something to eat, talking about work or classes, etc.)
  2. Delay- Check in on potentially troubling situations when you are not sure if the situation is unsafe or you do not feel safe immediately intervening.  Example: Asking a person if they are okay, or inviting them to go to the bathroom with you so you can talk to them to assess what is happening. 
  3. Delegate- Identify other bystanders who can assist you in safely intervening.  Example: Asking a friend to help intervene by distracting one of the parties while you distract the other.
  4. Direct- Intervene directly to make the parties aware that there is a problem and it has been noticed.  Example: Telling a potential offender, “Hey, she doesn’t look like she is sober enough to go upstairs,” or “I don’t think they’re into that.  Why don’t you give them some space?”

Remember- An effective intervention is one that puts SAFETY FIRST