Syracuse UniversityOffice of Health Promotion

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Bystander Intervention

What is a bystander?

Bystanders are individuals that observe or witness an event or situation they are not directly involved in. Bystanders have the potential to do nothing, contribute to negative behavior or attempt to impact the situation in a positive way.

What does it mean to be a Prosocial Bystander?

Prosocial bystanders are individuals that intervene to impact a situation in a positive way. At Syracuse University we expect our community members to act as prosocial bystanders in risky or harmful situations that might be occurring such as; alcohol poisoning or drug overdoses, bullying or harassment, relationship violence, stalking, sexual violence, or any other form of interpersonal violence. To safely intervene and care for your community members is what it means to be Orange. 

How can I intervene?

Here are some helpful strategies you can use to safely intervene in different scenarios. It can be helpful to practice or think about what strategies would make you feel the safest and most comfortable in different situations. Remember: every person has their own comfort levels and style of communication, there is no one correct way to intervene in any given situation.

  • Being Direct: Directly telling the person that their behavior or language is concerning or unsafe.
  • Bringing in the Professionals: If things become too serious, contact emergency personnel like the Counseling Center, Department of Public Safety or the police.
  • Code Words: Agree on a word or phrase before going somewhere and if anyone becomes uncomfortable they can signal by using the word. Once the code word is used, everyone who came together will all leave together- no questions asked.
  • Distraction: Divert attention away from the immediate problem or problematic language to de-escalate a situation.
  • Group Support: Recruit other people or friends to intervene together.
  • Humor: Make light of the problematic language and diffuse the situation from escalating.
  • Make it Personal: Relate the situation to something more personal.
  • Shift the Focus: Shift the focus to yourself to avoid being confrontational about the other person's language or behaviors.
  • Showing Support: Show support to the person. Let them know you are there for them if they are needing help or assistance.