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Bystander intervention for sexual harm

10 May 2024

Bystander intervention involves intervening before, during, or after you have witnessed inappropriate behaviour. By challenging unhelpful norms and beliefs in your community groups and interrupting unsafe situations you can help foster a safe environment. For example, you can challenge rape jokes. Learn about bystander intervention for sexual harm.



This video shows a fictional scenario leading up to a rape. It does not show the rape itself, but may be triggering to some people.

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Bystander effect

Research in psychology shows that the more people present, the less likely people are to help in an emergency situation (Darley & Latane, 1968). We need to actively choose to overcome the bystander effect and intervene when we witness unhealthy behaviours, comments or emergency situations. Doing so visibly makes it easier for others to help intervene also.

Bystander intervention

Bystander intervention involves intervening before, during or after a situation where we witness inappropriate behaviours. Bystander intervention fosters a safe environment by challenging unhelpful norms and beliefs within your community groups and interrupting unsafe situations. For example, we can challenge rape jokes, inappropriate sexual comments or inappropriate sexual behaviour that we come across in everyday life.

Bystander intervention involves 5 steps:
  1. Notice that something is happening
  2. Recognise the behaviour as a problem that requires intervention
  3. Take personal responsibility to do something
  4. Decide how to intervene. For example,
    - Distract the person acting inappropriately
    - Directly address the issue e.g. tell them that their behaviour isn’t okay
    - Delegate for someone else to help out e.g. ask your friend, RA, or the Police for help
    - Delay: If it’s too dangerous, wait for the situation to pass and check the victim is okay. You can also report the incident to the Police or UC
  5. Intervene safely


For more bystander intervention information

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