Bystander Intervention

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    Contact us for bystander Intervention training

    T.L. (Trish) Watson is a seasoned mediator who specializes in teaching de-escalation techniques and bystander training. She employs the 5D method—direct, distract, delegate, delay, and document—while prioritizing victim safety and care. Trish’s training sessions feature interactive role-playing scenarios and draw upon participants’ real-life experiences, ranging from concise 1.5-hour sessions to comprehensive two-day workshops. In addition to training, Trish offers mediation services for private and organizational disputes, with flexible pricing options available for nonprofits.

    Bystander Intervention

    Bystanders & Upstanders

    When an individual bears witness to a prejudiced attack and either intentionally ignores it or remains unaware of its discriminatory nature, their actions can inadvertently condone or bolster the offender’s behavior, further isolating the victim. These individuals are commonly referred to as “bystanders.” Acts of violence and aggression, whether on a macro or micro scale, perpetuate discrimination across various characteristics such as age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any combination thereof. By educating and motivating individuals to respond to prejudiced behavior, encouraging them to speak out against discriminatory actions as they happen, we can cultivate a society of “Upstanders.” This transformation can make anti-discriminatory conduct the societal norm and pave the way for a safer, more inclusive society.


    A bystander is an individual who observes a situation involving discrimination or violence, where a perpetrator targets a victim. In this moment, the bystander holds the power to either endorse, intervene, or remain passive (Rodenhizer-Stämpfli et al., 2018; Barnyard, 2011, as cited in Henson et al., 2020).


    An upstander, on the other hand, is a bystander who recognizes acts or statements of injustice and chooses to take a stand by interrupting and challenging situations that normalize discrimination and the potential for violence (Nelson et al., 2011; Grantham, 2011; Parrott et al., 2020).

    Distinguishing Bystander Intervention from the "Bystander Effect"

    It is important to note that bystander intervention is distinct from “The Bystander Effect.” Bystander intervention involves a bystander becoming an upstander in discriminatory or emergency situations. In contrast, the “Bystander Effect” refers to a psychological phenomenon where individuals are less likely to help or intervene due to the ambiguity of the situation, the presence of multiple bystanders (diffusion of responsibility), and the influence of others’ inaction (Henson et al., 2020; Madden & Loh, 2020; Jenkins & Nickerson, 2019; Bystander, 2006).

    Hollaback's 5 D's of Bystander Intervention

    Distract: Defuse the situation indirectly by interrupting the harasser and engaging in small talk or creating a commotion.

    Delegate: Seek assistance from a third party, preferably someone in a position of authority, to intervene.

    Document: If it is safe to do so and someone else is already helping the victim, take notes or record the discriminatory incident (with the victim’s permission).

    Delay: Offer support and assistance to the person who experienced discrimination or harassment.

    Direct: If everyone is physically safe, firmly and clearly speak out against the harassment or discrimination taking place. Prioritize assisting the victim over engaging in a debate with the harasser.

    Examples of Bystander and Upstander Scenarios

    Bullying in the Workplace

    Bystander: Witnessing a colleague being harassed or bullied by another coworker but choosing to remain silent or not get involved.

    Upstander: Recognizing bullying behavior and actively intervening or reporting it to a supervisor or the HR department to address the issue.

    Cyberbullying on Social Media

    Bystander: Observing hurtful comments or cyberbullying on social media platforms and opting to ignore or avoid involvement.

    Upstander: Responding to cyberbullying by supporting the victim, reporting inappropriate content, or encouraging others to stand against online harassment.

    Discrimination in a Public Setting

    Bystander: Witnessing someone being discriminated against based on their characteristics (e.g., race, gender) and choosing not to speak up or intervene.

    Upstander: Confronting the discriminatory behavior, supporting the victim, or reporting the incident to relevant authorities to address and rectify the situation.

    Sexual Harassment at a Social Event

    Bystander: Attending a social gathering where someone is making inappropriate advances or comments but deciding not to intervene or address the harasser.

    Upstander: Recognizing the inappropriate behavior, intervening to stop it, and providing support to the person experiencing harassment, possibly by reporting it to event organizers or authorities.

    Domestic Violence in a Neighborhood

    Bystander: Knowing or suspecting that a neighbor is experiencing domestic violence but choosing not to interfere or report the situation to the authorities.

    Upstander: Taking action by notifying law enforcement, offering support to the victim, or connecting them with resources such as domestic violence shelters or counseling services.

    In each of these scenarios, bystanders face a choice between remaining passive or taking a stand to address and prevent harm, while upstanders actively engage to support and promote a safer and more respectful environment.

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