Bystander Intervention Could Be the Answer to Sexual Assault Prevention

Bystander intervention is another method we can use to get the whole public engaged in eradicating sexual assault. Often people aren’t interested in social issues because they feel as if there’s nothing they can do to help fix them, and if there is something they can do, the solution often isn’t simple.

Bystander intervention is a simple solution; it’s as simple as speaking up when a situation doesn’t feel right. It can mean stepping in when a perpetrator tries to take advantage of an intoxicated victim. It can mean making sure your friends get home safely instead of leaving them behind at the party or bar.

Bystander intervention is the solution to the social psych phenomenon of the bystander effect — a social apathy of sorts that occurs when many people are present in an emergency situation and no one does anything because everyone assumes another person will take responsibility. Bystander intervention encourages and emboldens individuals to take charge in an emergency situation.

In a recent project for another course I analyzed the YWCA Missoula Make Your Move campaign posters, all of which encourage bystander intervention. They have slogans like “It was 2 a.m. so I offered her a ride thinking you never know… if the guy who’d been after my friend all night might try something. No way was I taking off without her,” “A girl that wasted is way easy to hook up with… so I made sure her friends got her out of there. She was in no shape to be going home with some guy,” and “I could tell she was asking for it… to stop. So I stepped in and told my buddy that was no way to treat a lady. And he backed off.” These posters show that it isn’t difficult to intervene as a bystander. All it takes is one comment, and you might prevent a sexual assault.

If we can show that bystander intervention is an easy task and anyone can do it, more people might get on board with the cause. I think the fear that one person can’t make a difference is what causes so much inaction. And the truth is, one person can make a huge difference.


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