skip to content

Breaking the silence - preventing harassment and sexual misconduct


Be an Active Bystander

We can all be bystanders. Every day events unfold around us. At some point, we will register someone in danger. When this happens, we will decide to do or say something (and become an active bystander), or to simply let it go (and remain a passive bystander).

When we intervene, we signal to the perpetrator that their behaviour is unacceptable. If such messages are constantly reinforced within our community, we can shift the boundaries of what is considered acceptable and problem behaviour can be stopped.

Learning to recognise when someone is in danger and how you can intervene safely is an essential skill. Safely intervening could mean anything from a disapproving look, interrupting or distracting someone, not laughing at a sexist or a violent joke, talking to a friend about their behaviour in a non-confrontational way to caring for a friend who’s experienced problematic behaviour. Other times, it means asking friends, staff, or the police for help.


How to be an Active Bystander:

Sometimes, a situation just does not feel right. It might be comments made by a friend that you feel are inappropriate or you spot someone being harassed at a party or club.

Being an active bystander means being aware of when someone’s behaviour is inappropriate or threatening and choosing to challenge it. If you do not feel comfortable doing this directly, then get someone to help you such as a friend or someone in authority.

Research shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens, as bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging, and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur.


Before stepping in, try the ABC approach.

  • Assess for safety: If you see someone in trouble, ask yourself if you can help safely in any way. Remember, your personal safety is a priority – never put yourself at risk.
  • Be in a group: It’s safer to call out behaviour or intervene in a group. If this is not an option, report it to others who can act.
  • Care for the victim. Talk to the person who you think may need help. Ask them if they are OK.

How You Can Intervene Safely:
When it comes to intervening safely, remember the four Ds – direct, distract, delegate, delay.

  • Direct action
    Call out negative behaviour, tell the person to stop or ask the victim if they are OK. Do this as a group if you can. Be polite. Don’t aggravate the situation - remain calm and state why something has offended you. Stick to exactly what has happened, don’t exaggerate.
  • Distract
    Interrupt, start a conversation with the perpetrator to allow their potential target to move away or have friends intervene. Or come up with an idea to get the victim out of the situation – tell them they need to take a call, or you need to speak to them; any excuse to get them away to safety. Alternatively, try distracting, or redirecting the situation.
  • Delegate
    If you are too embarrassed or shy to speak out, or you don’t feel safe to do so, get someone else to step in. Any decent venue has a zero tolerance policy on harassment, so the staff there will act.
  • Delay
    If the situation is too dangerous to challenge then and there (such as there is the threat of violence or you are outnumbered) just walk away. Wait for the situation to pass then ask the victim later if they are OK. Or report it when it’s safe to do so – it’s never too late to act.


In an emergency, call the police on 999.

And remember, never put yourself in danger. Only intervene if safe to do so.

Download the Active Bystander poster