Bystander Intervention


Each of us can send a clear message that sexual assault and relationship violence will not be tolerated, downplayed, or joked about, and that we, as a community, will react decisively if it does happen. We can talk about sexual assault and relationship violence and teach others that it is never ok.  And we can continue to educate ourselves and others about the issues.

Engaging Bystanders to Prevent Sexual Violence - Bulletin from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center 

Intervening: Knowing When and How to Respond - Tips from No More


FSU's bystander intervention curriculum, developed by our partner Voices Against Violence, teaches bystanders how to safely intervene in instances where someone is at risk of experiencing harm or causing harm to others.  This 50-minute program is delivered on campus throughout the year and can be provided upon request to campus groups and in the classroom.  Send training requests to


  • Know that sexual assault occurs in our communities and that we can SHAPE safe and supportive communities through our actions.
  • Your safety is paramount.  It is always safest to intervene with others and from a distance.
  • Be willing to speak up in difficult situations.
    • Ask the person if they need help.
    • Defuse the situation through humor or distraction.
    • Be direct and tell someone if their behavior is out of line.
  • Do not assume that just because no one else speaks up, that everyone else is fine with what's happening.  
    • If you step up and speak out, others will likely back you up.  
  • Intervention does not have to mean conflict.  Sometimes it's enough to cause a distraction or just disrupt the current course of events.  Consider some of these options:
    • Turn on the lights/turn off the music at a party.
    • Spill a drink on the potential perpetrator or victim.
    • Ask the potential victim, if female, for a personal item like a tampon.
    • Let the potential victim know you're leaving and encourage them to leave with you.
    • Ask a friend of the potential perpetrator to pull them aside for something.
  • Discuss the issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking with friends or share information and resources through social media.
  • Be conscious of your use of language and choose words carefully.  Cultural messages have the ability to support or discourage violence.  
    • Challenge societal messages about what it means to be a man or a woman and show appreciation when someone challenges gender stereotypes.
    • Be aware of, and refuse to use, sexist, homophobic, and demeaning language.
  • Don’t joke about sexual assault; comments and jokes that are meant to “ease the tension” or are “just kidding around” can trivialize the severity of the behavior.
  • Know what you value and make it clear to friends and family.  Seeking out these positive traits in others allows you to identify and build healthy relationships. 
  • Share positive messages with friends and family.
  • Communicate with your own partner about physical/sexual wants and boundaries.
  • Remember that it's never too early or too late to do something.  


  • A person has declared that they are intent on engaging in sexual activity with someone regardless of the status of the other person's knowledge or consent.
  • Someone has been pressured or encouraged to engage in sexual activity with as many people or as frequently as possible.
  • A person is providing excessive amounts of alcohol to someone with an intent to engage in sexual activity.
  • A person is about to engage in sexual activity with someone who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
  • It appears that one party may be blacking out or unaware of their current situation.


  • Insults, humiliating language or putting the person down in front of others.
  • Explosive temper, mood swings, or verbal abuse.
  • Jealousy or possessiveness.
  • Stalking behaviors such as following, watching from a distance, unwanted or excessive communication.
  • Invasion of privacy or obsessive tracking of the person's activities.  
  • Doesn't seem to care about what their partner wants.
  • Fear of displeasing partner.
  • Spending less time with friends.
  • Physical assault such as slapping, hitting, and punching.  


  • Listen carefully, without judgment.
  • Do not blame. Believe the victim and make it clear the fault lies only with the abuser. 
  • Offer a safe place to stay.
  • Let the survivor make decisions about next steps. All control has been stripped from the victim during the assault. Allow the victim to make decisions about what steps to take next.
  • Assist in getting the treatment/services they need if they agree.
  • Remain calm. You might feel shock or rage, but expressing these emotions to the victim may cause the victim more trauma.
  • Encourage medical attention and counseling.
  • Refer them to the resources and reporting information available on the SHAPE website.
  • Seek help yourself.