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Oklahoma State University

Bystander Intervention

Be an intervener! Stop these incidents before they occur, and talk to your friends about it so that they will intervene as well! Our goal is to change the culture on the OSU campus by creating a community of leaders and active bystanders. The in-person 1 is 2 Many Presentation goes over specific examples, training you to become an active bystander. We encourage you to request a presentation so that you can begin making a difference on the OSU campus today! Email or call 405-744-5470 to book a presentation and read more below.

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:

There are many thoughts that might interrupt this process. Think about whether or not you have ever thought of any of the following reasons or heard others describe these thoughts...

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.

"I don't want to embarrass myself...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 take care of that... 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
"What if I get hurt trying to help. This is a very legitimate fear that we want you to consider. We always, always, always want you to consider your personal safety before intervening. However, there is always 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.

In order to see how some of these thoughts may play out in a real life situation, here are a couple of videos where this process is evident.


So, what can you do to intervene? The following are steps you can take to keep yourself and others around you safe.

  • 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

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.

Read the following examples to get a better understanding of some specific ways you might help.


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

You can also read about the STEP UP! program at

STEP UP! is a pro-social behavior and bystander intervention program that educates students to be proactive in helping others. Teaching people about the determinants of pro-social behavior makes them more aware of why they sometimes don't help. As a result they are more likely to help in the future.

You can also read more about Bystander Intervention Theory in the following articles:

Darley, J. M. & Latane, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8(4), 377-383.

Fischer, P., Greitemeyer, T., Kastenmuller, A., Krueger, J. I., Vogrincic, C., & Frey, D. (2011). The bystander-effect: A meta-analytic review on bystander intervention in dangerous and non-dangerous emergencies. Psychological Bulletin, 137(4), 517-537. doi: 10.1037/a0023304

Latane, B., & Darley, J. M. (1970). The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn't he help. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

LataneĀ“, B., & Nida, S. (1981). Ten years of research on group size and helping. Psychological Bulletin, 89, 308 324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.89.2.308

Fischer, P., Greitemeyer, T., Pollozek, F., & Frey, D. (2006). The unresponsive bystander: Are bystanders more responsive in dangerous emergencies? European Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 267 278. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.297

Horowitz, I. A. (1971). The effect of group norms on bystander intervention. The Journal of Social Psychology, 83, 265 273. doi: 10.1080/00224545.1971.9922471