Being an active bystander
Because the vast majority of victims do not report their experiences, it is important to recognise the role that you can play as an active bystander.
An active bystander is someone who witnesses sexual violence occurring or a situation where sexual violence is at-risk of occurring and takes steps to intervene. Intervention can occur before, during or after an incident of sexual violence has happened.
When acting as a bystander, your own safety is paramount. You should never intervene in a way that makes you feel unsafe or that escalates a situation.
Bystander intervention assumes that we all have a role to play in preventing and responding to sexual violence. However, many people are reluctant to intervene because they don’t think it’s their place, or because they are unsure of what to do.
What strategies can you use to intervene?
Try to remember the ‘5 D’s of intervention’, developed by the organisation Hollaback:
Distract: is there something you can do to create a distraction or diversion? This is important to prevent direct confrontation that may lead to aggression targeted at you or the victim. It can also provide an opportunity for a victim to move away from an unsafe situation without drawing more unwanted attention.
Delegate: is there someone else in a position of authority who can help? This might include calling security, police, or peer-support volunteers such as DanceWize to help. It is important that you understand your limits. Only intervene directly when you are confident to do so and can do so safely.
Document: can you record what is happening to provide evidence? For example, this might include taking photo or video footage, or ensuring there are adequate CCTV provisions on the festival site. Always provide the footage to the victim – never circulate images you have taken without the victim’s consent as this can extend harm experienced.
Delay: can you provide support to the victim after an incident has occurred? Although the incident itself wasn’t stopped, you can provide support in the aftermath. For example, ask the victim if there is anything you can do to help or support them. Can you help them locate support services or police? Stay with them until friends or other care arrives.
Direct: if it is safe, can you directly confront the perpetrator? This might include ‘calling out’ the perpetrator and saying that what they are doing is wrong or asking them to leave. If intervening directly, ensure that the victim is safe BEFORE you make contact as there is a risk that confrontation can escalate a situation.
There is no one ‘best’ way to respond as a bystander – use the 5D’s like a toolbox to draw on if you need to intervene. Use whichever strategies you feel most comfortable and safe within the moment.
You can find more information on how to intervene as a bystander here: https://www.ihollaback.org/bystander-resources/
You can also consider taking part in training on bystander intervention:
Bystander training for people working in the music industry: https://www.cohealth.org.au/access-all-areas/#bystander-training
Bystander training for members of the general public: