Your safety is the most important consideration. Ask yourself:
- Are you putting yourself, others, or the person experiencing the abuse at risk? Is there something else you can do to lessen the risk?
- Do you feel unsafe or do you feel uncomfortable? It is ok to feel uncomfortable. Think about why you feel that way and consider stepping outside your comfort zone.
It can be hard to know if what you are witnessing is consensual. Remember consent means someone is voluntarily involved in the activity. Take notice if participation is one-sided, body language doesn’t match, or one person is much more intoxicated.
Bystanders can practice consent with the person experiencing the violence. Seek their guidance on how to handle the situation and ALWAYS respect their wishes.
Whenever possible try to support the person being harmed to regain control of the situation.
Being an active bystander is more than intervening when you witness violence occurring.
You can be part of violence prevention by building a culture that does not support gender-based violence in any form. Address things like:
- Rape jokes
- Negative comments or jokes about gender or sexuality
- Attitudes that minimize, normalize or trivialize violence. These include victim blaming or placing the responsibility on the victim ex. “Just avoid that area of town” or “don’t get too drunk”.
Distract, Delay, Direct and Delegate
Always ensure your own safety, and the safety and consent of the person experiencing abuse. If it is safe, proceed with the 4 D’s.
There are lots of ways to safely create distractions
- Take the attention off of the person experiencing abuse (ie. ring the doorbell if you hear neighbours fighting).
- Ask for the time or directions.
- Approach the person experiencing the abuse and pretend you know them.
Check in with the person that was targeted after the violence or abuse has occurred.
- Ask them if you can help and listen to their answer.
- Tell them you’re sorry the abuse is happening, and you’re there to support them.
- Ask them if you can call someone for them – whether it be a friend, family member or the police.
It can be risky to get involved directly, so be sure that it’s SAFE to directly intervene.
- Remember you don’t always have to target the person using the abusive behavior. Check in with the person you are worried about. Often, just by standing with the person being abused, the abuser will leave them alone.
- Tell the abuser their behaviour/actions are inappropriate and to stop it.
- Demonstrate your disapproval for those behaviours by walking away.
- If you have consent, document the situation. Ask the person being targeted what they would like done with the information and NEVER post online.
- If at any point you don’t feel it’s SAFE, remember there are still things you can do!
Ask someone else to help you
- Talk to someone in charge – the manager, the teacher, the bus driver etc.
- Call security or the police – if possible, make sure the person you’re supporting wants this.
- Are there any other supports the person experiencing abuse might need?
- Join forces with other bystanders and share the bystander roles. Help instruct people so they know what to do.