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Transforming from a Bystander to Interventionist

Seeing violence or harassment firsthand can be shocking and cause you to freeze. If you have a plan for what to do when you see something, it is easier to take action and intervene. It should be noted that if you do not feel safe intervening, you should call for help and get to safety. 

There are many ways to safely intervene in a potentially violent situation. Preparing yourself as well as your friends and family with a plan for intervention is a good step in taking a stand against hatred.

Three ways to safely intervene

  • Assess the situation. – Is violence about to take place, or is it already occurring? What can you tell about the people involved? Do they know each other? Does it seem like they are both agitated, or does one person seem afraid? These are questions you can ask before you decide how you feel comfortable intervening.
  • Divert attention. – Take attention away from the person being attacked or distract from a potentially violent scenario. Spilling a drink or interrupting by asking for directions may help dissipate the interaction enough to stop violence from occurring. If an altercation is already happening, yell at the attacker to get away and to stop hurting the person.
  • Draw attention. – Get other people’s attention who are nearby. Creating more attention to the scene lets the attacker know they are outnumbered. Make a plan with other bystanders to separate the attacker from the person being attacked. Designate someone to call for help. 

Finding resources online like Hollaback! or taking a class in bystander intervention at a community center will help you become a regular practitioner. Discussing what to do with your loved ones will also help ensure that bystander intervention is a community-wide action.

Finally, hold space for the person who experienced harm. Make sure they are connected to the resources they need and have the ability to heal from this traumatic experience.

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