6 ways to be an active bystander

Friday, August 27, 2021 6 ways to be an active bystander

Teal ribbon on lawn flag for sexual assault awareness

Has there ever been a time when you felt, wondered, or even knew, something was wrong and you wanted to help, but didn’t? By feeling more confident in knowing what to do you can help create a positive environment for yourself and those around you.

One person at a time and one decision at a time, we can make a collective impact on the campus and in our community. The following strategies will help you know how to intervene to address problems or concerns. These may range from alcohol use to anger, depression, sexual assault, relationship abuse and discrimination, just to name a few.

Remember, at all times you need to make sure it is safe for you and others in the situation if you intervene. Be sure to carefully assess the situation and weigh the pros and cons to take the right action using the 5 D’s.

OPTION #1: Direct

Address the situation directly through conversation. It’s important to recognize that this may become confrontational, so you may want to employ another strategy or professional resources to help diffuse the situation.

OPTION #2: Distract

If you notice a friend in a situation that appears concerning, find a way to change the direction of conversation and actions. Strike up a conversation about something random to help the individual have an out or diffuse the situation.

OPTION #3: Delegate

If you don’t feel that you can intervene, know your resources. Ask a friend who knows the person better to check in or call 911 if the situation is serious. You also can reach out to on-campus resources for information or support for yourself.

OPTION #4: Delay

If you couldn’t take action in the moment, you can still make a difference afterward by checking in on someone to ask how you can help or offering resources.

OPTION #5: Document

If someone is already helping the person, and you are safe, start recording while keeping a safe distance from the incident. But never, ever livestream the video, post online or otherwise use it without the individuals’ permission.

You can also report concerns using UNL Report (for non-emergencies) or contact the University Police Department at (402) 472-2222.

BONUS TIP: Discuss

Before a sticky situation arises, discuss signs and signals for how you can both directly and subtly indicate problems to friends, particularly in social settings. This will help you know what to look for and how to show others that you may need assistance. This can be as simple as a certain action or code word.


Participate in a 90-minute StepUp! training. Trainings are available for student groups and campus departments. Learn more at https://go.unl.edu/stepup.

To view a comprehensive list of campus trainings available to address sexual assault and relationship violence, visit https://go.unl.edu/useyourvoice.

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