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Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention is recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and choosing to respond in a way that could positively influence the outcome. Our goal is to change the culture on the OSU campus by creating a community of leaders and active bystanders

The Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect predicts that people are less likely to help others when there are more people around a potentially dangerous situation. There are many reasons people might not step up to intervene in these situations. First, here is the thought process someone needs to have before making a conscious decision to intervene:


  1.  Notice a critical situation.
  2. Recognize a situation as problematic.
  3. Develop a feeling of personal responsibility to do something.
  4. Believe you have the skills and knowledge to intervene.
  5. Consciously decide to help.

There are many thoughts that might interrupt this process, such as:


Pluralistic ignorance - "Nobody else thinks this is a problem."
Many times, people think that no else thinks the situation is a problem because no one is stepping in to stop it. So, many people may internally disagree with a situation, but outwardly do nothing.

Embarrassment - "Speaking up would be embarrassing."
Often, people are afraid of embarrassing themselves or those involved in the situation. This is a very legitimate fear, but it is important to weigh the consequences of a potentially embarrassing moment with the consequences of experiencing sexual violence or other harmful situations.

Diffusion of responsibility - "Someone else will do it."
Shockingly, research shows that the more people there are witnessing a potentially dangerous situation, the less likely it is that anyone individual will intervene because people assume that someone else will take care of it.

Fear of getting hurt - "I might get hurt trying to help."
This is a very legitimate fear that we want you to consider. Always consider your personal safety before intervening. However, there is something you can do to help, even if it is simply calling the police. You can read below to find out more about safe ways to intervene.


When to Intevene

It's important to intervene or confront friends who make excuses for other people's absuive behavior. Speak up against racist, sexist, and homophobic jokes or remarks.


How to Intervene

When attempting to help, you should also think about the 4 D's of intervention:

  1.  Distract - Find a way to distract the participants from what is happening. This could look like changing the subject, mentioning another activity like getting food, or others actions.
  2.  Delegate - If you are not comfortable intervening, find someone who is. You might call law enforcement or other friends, talk to the bartender, or talk to others around.
  3.  Delay - If you are not sure you should intervene, try to delay the situation until you can get more information. This might look like going to the bathroom with a potential victim, turning on a TV, or other behaviors.
  4.  Direct - If you feel comfortable, the best way might be to directly intervene and ask those involved what is going on.

Remember, any situation that threatens physical harm to yourself or another student should be assessed carefully. Always consider your personal safety before intervening. Contact OSUPD at 405-744-6523 or SPD at 405-372-4171 if assistance is needed.

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