Active Bystander

The Department of Defense is launching an all-out effort to get its people to engage in Active Bystander Intervention to prevent sexual assault.

  • Active bystanders take the initiative to help someone who may be targeted for a sexual assault by a predator.
  • Active bystanders also take the initiative to help friends who aren't thinking clearly from becoming perpetrators of crime.
  • Intervention doesn't mean that you only step in to stop a crime in progress; rather, these steps are "early intervention" — before the crime begins.

There are three components to Active Bystander Intervention. We refer to them as the ABCs:*

  • Assess for safety. Ensure that all parties are safe, and assess whether the situation requires calling authorities. When deciding to intervene, your personal safety should be the #1 priority. When in doubt, call for help.
  • Be with others. If safe to intervene, you're likely to have a greater influence on the parties involved when you work together with someone or several people. Your safety is increased when you stay with a group of friends who you know well.
  • Care for the victim. Ask if the victim of the unwanted sexual advance, attention, or behavior is okay. Does he or she need medical care? Does he or she want to talk to a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) to see about reporting the matter? Ask if someone he or she trusts can help him or her get safely home.

* Adapted from University of New Hampshire's "Bringing in the Bystander." More information is available from: http://www.unh.edu/preventioninnovations

Active Bystander Intervention takes a number of forms:

  • Talking to a friend to ensure he or she is doing okay
  • Making up an excuse to help the friend get away from someone
  • Calling the police
  • Recommending to a bartender or party host that someone has had too much to drink
  • Pointing out someone's disrespectful behavior in a safe and respectful manner that tends to de-escalate the situation
  • Removing a friend from a risky situation quickly

Despite the fact that most of you wear a uniform, no one is asking you to take the part of the police. Your personal safety is key. Before you act, you should think about the following:*

  • How can you keep yourself safe in this situation?
  • What are all the options available to you?
  • Who else might be able to assist you in this situation?
  • What are the pros and cons of acting?
  • Decide how to help
  • Approach everyone as a friend
  • Be firm
  • Avoid violence

For more ideas and discussion topics, access the following materials: