Skip to main content

3 tips for effective bystander intervention

Find out how to step up to stop sexual violence
October 13, 2016

Intervention doesn’t have to mean confrontation.

Distract. Direct. Delegate.

These are three things you can do if you see someone being sexually harassed, or someone who may be in trouble.

“A big part of stopping sexual violence is to recognize it before it happens,” says Jennifer Drummond, coordinator of Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC). “Not all situations are going to be violent or ‘in your face.’”

Bystander intervention is an approach used to address the behaviours of others, with the goal of creating safer communities and preventing sexual violence.

Drummond describes how a person can intervene safely in a situation that requires a response.

“I always tell people to follow their instincts. If they see a situation that does not feel right, then it’s important to step in.”


Drummond says distraction works well in situations of street harassment. For example, asking the perpetrator for the time or directions.


It doesn’t have to be a confrontation. A direct intervention could involve you asking the person, “Are you okay? Do you need help?”

This is a safe and effective way to open the door for the person who is being targeted. The same could apply if you hear inappropriate jokes and language. Simply state your discomfort or disapproval.


Finally, the SARC coordinator says you can always ask other people to help take charge of a situation. This could be a friend, or if you are in a bar, the bouncer or bartender.

For Drummond, the current SARC consent campaign, which features an animated video about bystander intervention, is just one of the many efforts the university is undertaking to encourage conversations on campus.

She highlights the importance of getting people talking about consent and how to prevent sexual violence. “Our campaign is aimed at increasing student awareness about the issue without being preachy or threatening,” she says.

“It’s all part of our approach to support students, encourage dialogue and provide information.”

Find out more about the Sexual Assault Resource Centre’s consent campaign on campus. Or watch a SARC video on bystander intervention:


Back to top

© Concordia University