We can all be bystanders to harassment, bullying, and unacceptable behaviour. If we witness someone in danger or under threat there’s a choice to make; do you bear witness, or step in? Active bystanders choose to step forward in those moments and intervene where someone might not be able to protect themselves

You can take action if you witness someone you know, your friend or colleague, classmate, or your tutee or student facing bullying, harassment or sexual violence.
There are several ways an active bystander can help someone, and it does not necessarily have to be direct intervention in all cases. If a situation can be dangerous or become worse by directly intervening, please avoid direct confrontation.

The RVC has online training on looking out for others as part of our Consent Matters module. 
The following outlines the four types of intervening actions you can take (also called the 4 D's of being an active bystander):
1) Direct Action

Call out negative behaviour, tell the person to stop or ask the victim if they are OK. Do this as a group if you can. A direct action is an intervention where a person confronts a situation or negative behaviour themselves. You may do this using your body language, gestures, facial expressions and/or words, depending on the situation. Direct doesn’t have to be confrontational or combative. It just means that you directly approach the person at risk and check-in on them and ask if they are okay or simply, directly ask the perpetrator to stop it.
Note: You should only directly challenge a behaviour if you feel safe to do so. If it is an emergency call 999 (or 112 from a mobile). If there is no immediate danger you can report it. 
 2) Distraction 

Interrupt, start a conversation with the perpetrator to allow their potential target to move away or have friends intervene. Distraction is a subtle and indirect way to intervene. In this you may interrupt or cause a distraction to move away the perpetrator or the target from a problematic situation so that it helps deescalate a situation. Distraction is particularly useful when dealing with microaggressions and micro inequities. Sometimes distraction or causing that break is more than enough to derail a situation and help someone. It not only helps diffuse the situation but also allows a moment for things to calm down without any fuss.
 3) Delegation

If you are too embarrassed or shy to speak out, or you don’t feel safe to do so, get someone else to step in. Delegating is when you ask someone else to step in and be involved. If you can’t intervene directly because of any reason, you may be too shy or not feel safe or not capable enough, you can ask for help from someone with more power or authority to deal with the situation. This is when you seek outside assistance to intervene in the situation. For example, a bystander can seek help or assistance from the police, a public transport worker or another party such as a line manager, personal tutor, HR or Students Unions. For example, if the harassment is occurring at a SU bar, the Students’ Union workers will remove perpetrators from their events if notified of harmful behaviour. 

4) Delay 

If the situation is too dangerous to challenge then and there (such as there is the threat of violence or you are outnumbered) just walk away. Delay is when you may have to choose to hold up your intervention. This may be because the situation may be too threatening, violent or you may be outnumbered. In such a situation, waiting could be beneficial. You could reach out to the victim afterwards to see how they would like to be supported and make sure they don’t feel alone. Don’t do nothing, it’s never too late to take some action.

Remember: The delay tactic is an important step in when witnessing any unacceptable behaviour, and is important to do to ensure the person targeted understands the support options available to them. 

Talk to them
If you see an incident occur and you think it is problematic, it is important that you are able to talk about it.

Talk to a friend. Talking things through with someone you trust can sometimes help. For students, the Advice Centre is a free, confidential, service where an advisor can talk through the procedure, including how to complain, explain what options are open to you, and support you through the process.
For staff, you can get in touch with Dignity at Work and Study Ambassadors who provide confidential and non-judgmental support to help you clarify your thoughts and take steps for resolution, including guiding you to formal procedures should those be needed. 
Things you can say to the person being targeted:
  • Can I help?
  • Can I call someone for you?
  • Can I walk you home?
  • Is everything OK?
  • Should I call the police?
  • Are you alright?
Things you can say to the person behaving problematically:
  • What you said earlier really bothered me...
  • I don’t like what you just did...
  • I wonder if you realise how that comes across...


There are two ways you can tell us what happened