University of Southern Indiana

What is bystander intervention?

Making the first move falls under a psychological theory called Bystander Intervention. Many situations have been studied, and there are certain steps that are the same in every situation.

The 5 steps that we all go through when we decide whether to make a move are:

  1. Notice the event
    You need to notice that something is wrong. You have to be aware of what's going on around you, which is harder than it looks.  You might notice that one of your friends has had too much to drink, is wandering off with a guy you don't know, or that one of your friends is posting some things on Facebook that would indicate he is depressed.

  2. Interpret the event as a problem
    If you've ever been to a party and heard a girl scream, what just happened? Is she being threatened, or has she just seen a spider, run into a good friend, or loves the song being played? You don't know if there is a problem unless you take a moment to glance over and determine why she was screaming. If no one else thinks it's a problem, should you?

  3. Assume personal responsibility
    Once you notice an event and interpret it as a problem, you need to make it your problem.  This can be very hard.  People are much more likely to help when they are alone than when others are present. Each one of us has the responsibility to make the first move.

  4. Know how to help
    You can't help if you don't know what to do.  Check out the topic pages for suggestions of how to help in different situations.

  5. Implement the help
    OK, you made it this far - now make your move!  Remember to make moves that are safe for you (calling Public Safety or 911 might be the only safe thing you can do) and that will help you accomplish your goal.

Remember, you do have a responsibility to intervene. However, you are not responsible for the outcome of the intervention.

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