Everyone has a duty and responsibility to intervene if they see harm occurring or about to occur. Bystanders are anyone in the community that sees or hears about a behavior that could lead to something harmful. Through their action, bystanders have the ability to prevent harm from happening. All bystanders have a choice to make, to intervene or to move forward without trying to stop the situation.

There are 5 steps to bystander intervention. First, a person must notice the event. Second, they must interpret it as a situation that needs intervention. Third, they must assume responsibility to intervene. Fourth, they must decide how to intervene. And last, they must act. A person may experience barriers at any of these steps that make it so that person does not intervene should they witness an instance of harm.

Bystanders can act to prevent harm in a number of ways. Spring Hill College has adopted the StepUp! program as a way to teach about violence prevention. StepUp! is a prosocial behavior and bystander intervention program that educates bystanders to be proactive in helping others.

StepUp! training provides a framework explaining the bystander effect, reviews relevant research and teaches skills for intervening successfully using the 5 Decision Making Steps, the 5 Ds and the S.E.E.K Model (Safe; Early; Effective; Kind). Teaching people about the barriers to helping as well as strategies, skills and the determinants of prosocial behavior makes them more likely to help in the future.

Five Ways to Intervene:


Check in with the person being harmed or the person doing the harm. Always put your safety first and be as non confrontational as possible.


  • Check in with someone who looks uncomfortable and ask them if they are ok.
  • Tell someone who is about to do something that may harm another person that their behavior isn’t acceptable.


Get someone else to intervene. This type of intervention recognizes that sometimes other people may be better suited to intervene.


  • Tell someone that they may want to go check on their friend.
  • Let a party host know that there is something going on that they should look into.

Create a diversion to defuse the situation; i.e., an action that stops a situation for a few seconds to give everyone a chance to recollect.


  • Set off your car alarm.
  • Ask for directions.


Check in with the person being harmed at a later time to see if they are ok. If you can’t take action in the moment, you can still make a difference by checking on the person afterwards and asking how you can help or offering resources.


  • When the person being harmed is alone, ask if everything is ok.
  • Offer to go with the person to talk with a Hill SPEAK or SART member.


If someone is already helping the person, and you are safe, document the incident. Irrefutable facts are very important. Reminder: Never livestream videos, post online, or otherwise use it without the person’s permission.


  • Write down a detailed description of the incident or person causing harm.
  • Take a picture or video of the person causing harm.

Topics of Bystander Intervention offered:

  • Alcohol and Alcohol Poisoning
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Discrimination
  • Disordered Eating
  • Disordered Eating
  • Hazing
  • Sexual Assault
  • Relationship Abuse

To schedule a Bystander Intervention session, please contact Emilee Truitt at etruitt@shc.edu

This project was supported by Grant No. 2020-WA-AX-003 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publications/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

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