What is a Bystander?
A bystander, or witness, is anyone who sees a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation. Bystanders may or may not know what to do, or may expect someone else to do something to help. Research shows that educating and engaging bystanders is a promising way to help prevent the widespread problem of sexual violence within communities.
Depending on how bystanders respond, they can either contribute to the problem or the solution. Bystanders rarely play a completely neutral role, although they may think they do.
Bystanders also have the power to play a key role in preventing or stopping bullying.
Some bystanders directly intervene, by discouraging the bully, defending the victim, or redirecting the situation away from bullying.
Other bystanders get help, by rallying support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to adults.
How to Intervene:
Bystanders need to realize that bullying is a serious problem, and that a lack of action on their part will only give bullies more opportunities to torment their victims. Some argue that close to 50% of all bullying events stop when a bystander decides to intervene (Dr. Ken Rigby), which just further shows the importance of intervening. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you witness bullying.
Don’t assume that this is a private matter between the bully and the victim. Incidents of bullying, especially those that are frequent, are often not because of personal reasons;
Don’t combat violence with violence. It takes a lot of courage for someone to step up on behalf of a bullied person. However, don’t use insults or physical violence to defend the victim. Now is not the time to show off. You will most likely only make it harder for the victim
Do not get discouraged if you have already talked to the teachers and nothing happened. Keep trying. Teachers and other school authorities will respond if they find out that the bullying is becoming a recurrent problem. Try talking to other teachers and counselors so that you can get more people involved in trying to stop the situation;
If you feel that this is none of your business, put yourself in the victim’s shoes. Bullying can cause severe anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration in a person, and can turn their life into a nightmare. You wouldn’t want to feel that way.
Violence doesn’t stop violence – if you cannot intervene safely, contact law enforcement!
If someone is being abusive, threatening or trying to fight the abusive person is only going to make the situation worse. Instead, ask questions like “Is everything okay?” while looking at both people. It’s a way to interrupt the situation without making it worse.
Don’t silence or ignore the victim.
Be sure that you don’t put all the focus on the abuser. The victim’s voice should be heard and respected. Ignoring victims makes it seem like what they’re feeling doesn’t matter.