Active Bystander Intervention

Active Bystander Intervention is the act of a person intervening when they see or hear behaviours that promote harassment, bullying, sexual misconduct, or violence. By speaking out or intervening in situations involving harassment or violence, we can all help to build a safer and more positive campus environment.

There are several steps to intervening safely:

  1. Notice an event.
  2. Recognize there is a problem.
    • Recognize actions or patterns of behaviour that might signal there is bullying, harassment, or violence.
  3. Take responsibility for acting.
    • Consider “If I don’t act, could the situation get worse?”
    • Ask yourself “If this was a friend or a family member, would I want someone to act?”
  4. Decide how to respond appropriately and take action.

How to respond

Direct intervention 

Taking responsibility to act directly

Speak up. If possible, raise the issue with the person.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be more appropriate to talk to the person in private, not in front of others (“Can I talk to you privately for a minute?”).

Be objective and descriptive (“I heard what you said to him and noticed how he reacted- he became quiet, blushed, and looked uncomfortable”).

Express your thoughts about the incident (“I was also uncomfortable when…”).
Ask if they were aware of the impact (“Did you know that he felt this way?”).
Ask the person who is the target of the harassment if they are ok in that moment (“Is he/she bothering you?” or “Are you ok?”)

Refuse to join in when derogatory, degrading, abusive or violent attitudes or behaviours are being displayed. Some examples of things you could say include:

“I don’t think that joke is funny”
“What you’re saying/what you’re doing is really bothering him/her. Did you mean that?”
“How would you feel if someone treated you this way?”


Using distraction to redirect the focus somewhere else

A simple action like stepping between the people involved (if it is safe to do so) and asking for the time can be a non-confrontational way of showing your presence and averting their current behaviour.

You can ask the person who is being harassed if they can come help you with something so that they can escape the situation.

You could also register your lack of approval for discriminatory or harassing attitudes by leaving the individual or group who are perpetuating them.


Asking someone else to intervene (Classmates, Instructor, CNC Employee, Security, Police/911)

You can speak to a classmate, instructor, CNC employee, or campus security and ask them to intervene. Depending on the situation, this may be a safer option. If it is an emergency, call 911, and if on-campus also notify security.

After the event

After the event, support the person who experienced the sexual misconduct.

    • Listen and acknowledge the person’s experience.
    • Encourage the person to report or address the concerns.
    • Offer to accompany the person to report the concerns.
    • Offer to report that you witnessed what happened.
    • Keep notes of what, when, where and who was involved.

These videos created by Ferris State University provide examples of Bystander Intervention skills in action in a student lounge.

This next video, created as part of the HowWillWeRespond Campaign, provides an example of each of the three types of Bystander Intervention skills in a scenario taking place in a bar.