How to be an Active Bystander

Last weekend, I went out for Halloween and experienced something I never wanted to experience. After years of education on consent and abuse, I witnessed evidence of a potentially abusive encounter. It is very easy to disconnect from the reality of these relationships when you aren’t directly affected by them, but this situation opened my eyes.

First of all, a couple was visibly incapacitated. There was a man making out with a woman. A friend and I were keeping an eye on them as we waited in line to be let into a club. When we saw her say “stop it”, we knew it was time to step in. Luckily, we interfered and helped her out of a potentially dangerous situation. Unfortunately, not all of these moments are easily resolved, especially if you don't know what to do. The following steps outline what to do in a situation that calls for an active bystander and our experiences doing so.

  1. If you see something, say something.

We were in a crowd of a of people and had at least 20 people in front of us. There were plenty of people that could have stepped in, but the mentality that someone else will do it prevented them from doing so. I told some guys that were around me in case anything got physical, while my friend stepped in to the situation and separated the couple.

     2. Do what is in the best interest of the victim.

We took her home, and stayed with her until she was asleep. We alerted her roommate and then left her in her room. It wasn’t our place to get involved with her boyfriend, but we did need to make sure she was safe. Therefore, we stayed with her and made sure that she had people in her life to take care of her if we couldn’t be there.

     3. Stay Safe.

The altercation got very heated, which can often happen when there is any kind of substance involved. In addition to making sure the victim is safe, you have to stay safe.  If someone seems to be getting physical, remove yourself. Make decisions with safety as your priority.

    4.    Write it down.

Get contact information of the victim. Physically write down the details of what happened if the victim wants to take any further action. It is important to do this when the event is fresh in your mind. Date everything, and the more accounts you have the better.    

    5.   Be a supporter.

We are still in contact with the victim, and we continue to check in on her to make sure she is safe. We were able to step in before anything dangerous happened, but being a support system is essential to ensure the safety of the possible victim.

Unfortunately, these things happen more often than we think.  I don’t like to think about it,  but this forced me to become more aware. It is not about girls being there for girls, it is about people being there for people. The situation happened to be between a man and a woman, but keep your eyes open to injustice and be a decent person. Hopefully these steps can help you, just remember to prioritize safety and the victim’s choices.