Active Bystander

An active bystander is someone who not only witnesses a situation, but takes steps to speak up or step in to keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.

Some good things to ask yourself about a situation you are witnessing to figure out if it requires action might be:

  • Is the behavior mutual or wanted?
  • How would I feel if I were in that situation?
  • Would I want someone to help me or intervene if I were in their shoes?
  • What are the pros and cons of intervening?
  • Is there someone else who can help intervene?
  • It is safe for me to intervene or should I call for help?

Be direct. Address the person being targeted or the problematic behavior directly.
Things you can say to the person being targeted:
“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?”

 Things you can say to the person acting not so good:
“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...”

Removing someone from a risky situation works as a way to directly intervene too.

Distract. Maybe you're not sure how to directly address a situation, so the best and safest thing to do is derail a conversation or disrupt someone from taking any further steps that are problematic. 

Delegate. We want you to be safe and comfortable with whatever action you're taking. In some cases this might mean calling for help in order to stop something from escalating or happening. There are lots of people on campus you can ask to act on your behalf - don't hesitate to call Campus Safety, the police, tell a staff or faculty member about what is going on or ask a friend who might be more equipped to do something to help you in being an active bystander.

Telling a bartender or party host that someone has had too much to drink is also a way of being an active bystander.


  • 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.
  • Know and respect your own limits. There is only so much you can do to help your friend or a stranger. 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 not good thing from happening violent experience. Don't forget that you are not responsible for someone else's actions.


* Adapted from University of New Hampshire's “Bringing in the Bystander.” More information is available from: