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Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention is a strategy to prevent various types of violence, including bullying, sexual harassment and assault, and intimate partner violence. Grouped together, we call these behaviors "gender-based violence." The Bystander Intervention training is a two-hour interactive program led by student facilitators. It includes videos, discussion of the definition of consent, facts about how Colgate can help student survivors of sexual assault and/or harassment, and a section on how to identify dangerous situations and intervene safely and effectively.

For more information, questions, or comments, please visit the Sexual Climate Initiatives page or e-mail us at bystander@colgate.edu.

Helpful Tips

To combat sexual assault on campus, the most powerful tool is your conveying your concern. The best way bystanders can assist in creating an empowering climate free of interpersonal violence is to diffuse the problem behaviors before they escalate.
  • Educate yourself about interpersonal violence and share this info with friends
  • Confront friends who make excuses for other peoples abusive behavior
  • Speak up against racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes or remarks
  • Key Facts:
  • Students, faculty, and staff have all contributed to our current model.
  • All new students were trained in the last two years through Link groups
  • Trained student facilitators include students in key positions such as Community Leaders within residential life, Link staff, and campus fraternity and sorority members, in addition to three paid interns who work from the Shaw Wellness Institute.
  • Many trainings for student organizations and members of fraternities and sororities occur each year. 
  • Student leaders regularly complete trainings as part of the informal expectations for social host policy.

Bystander Intervention Model

A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin La Cross on bystander intervention concluded that people are more likely to help others under certain conditions.

  • Notice the Incident. Bystanders first must notice the incident taking place. Obviously, if they don't take note of the situation there is no reason to help.
  • Interpret Incident as Emergency. Bystanders also need to evaluate the situation and determine whether it is an emergency, or at least one in which someone needs assistance. Again, if people do not interpret a situation as one in which someone needs assistance, then there is no need to provide help
  • Assume Responsibility. Another decision bystanders make is whether they should assume responsibility for giving help. One repeated finding in research studies on helping is that a bystander is less likely to help if there are other bystanders present. When other bystanders are present responsibility for helping is diffused. If a lone bystander is present he or she is more likely to assume responsibility.
  • Attempt to Help. Whether this is to help the person leave the situation, confront a behavior, diffuse a situation, or call for other support/security.

Methods of Intervention

  • Step in and separate two people. Let them know your concerns and reasons for intervening. Be a friend and let them know you are acting in their best interest.
  • Use a distraction to redirect the focus somewhere else.
  • Evaluate the situation. You could directly intervene yourself, or alert friends of each person to come in and help. 
  • Recruit the help of friends of both people to step in as a group.
  • Divert the attention of one person away from the other person. Commit a party foul if you need to (i.e. spilling a drink)!

Tips for Intervening

In a situation potentially involving sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking:

  • Approach everyone as a friend
  • Do not be antagonistic
  • Avoid using violence
  • Be honest and direct whenever possible
  • Recruit help if necessary
  • Keep yourself safe
  • If things get out of hand or become too serious, contact the police
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