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How to be an active bystander – 5 simple steps

23 June 2020

Sometimes a situation may not seem right, inappropriate comments may be made, or worse, physical abuse in the form of sexual violence may be playing out right in front of you. But what do you do?

bystander

Sometimes a situation may not seem right, inappropriate comments may be made, or worse, physical abuse in the form of sexual violence may be playing out right in front of you. But what do you do?

Individuals with problematic behaviour are more likely to think their behaviour is normal or acceptable if no one confronts it, and this can often be reinforced by cultural messages. By reinforcing messages about unacceptable behaviour, we put pressure on people to re-think their behaviour and you can do this by being an active bystander.

You have the opportunity to be an active bystander – by being aware that someone’s behaviour is inappropriate or threatening, you can choose to challenge it. If you do not feel comfortable handling this directly, then get someone to help you such as a friend, a member of security or the Police.

Simple steps to becoming an active bystander:

  • Notice the situation: Be aware of your surroundings
  • Interpret it as a problem: Do I recognise that someone needs help?
  • Feel responsible to act: See yourself as being part of the solution by helping
  • Know what to do: Educate yourself on what to do
  • Intervene safely: Take action but be sure to keep yourself safe

How you can intervene safely:

  • Tell another person: being with others is a good idea when a situation could be unsafe
  • Ask the victim if he/she is okay before getting involved: Provide options and a listening ear. If the victim is unable to speak to you and you believe they are in danger call the Police on 999.
  • If it is safe to do so, ask the person if he/she wants to leave with you: make sure that he/she gets home safely

Collectively, our UCL community can bring about a positive change and create a safe and supportive environment for all. Be kind, let’s look out for one another.

If you need help dealing with an incident on campus please contact the Security Team on the emergency number – 020 7679 2222 or 222 from any UCL phone.

If you believe the situation poses a high risk of harm towards the victim or anyone nearby please call the Police on the emergency number 999. 


Sophie Bimson, UCL's Crime Prevention and Personal Safety Adviser