What to do

Bystander Intervention

While the only person responsible for committing sexual assault is a perpetrator, all of us have the ability to look out for each other’s safety. Whether it’s giving someone a safe ride home from a party or directly confronting a person who is engaging in threatening behavior, anyone can help prevent sexual violence.

You may have heard the term “bystander intervention” to describe a situation where someone who isn’t directly involved steps in to change the outcome. A bystander is a person who is present when an event takes place but isn’t directly involved. Bystanders might be present when sexual assault or abuse occurs—or they could witness the circumstances that lead up to these crimes. Stepping in may give the person you’re concerned about a chance to get to a safe place or leave the situation. You don’t have to be a hero or even stand out from the crowd to make a big difference in someone’s life.

Whether you’re taking home a friend who has had too much to drink, explaining that a rape joke isn’t funny, or getting security involved when someone is behaving aggressively, choosing to step in can impact the way those around you think about and respond to sexual violence.

It’s not always easy to step in, even if you know it’s the right thing to do. Some common reasons bystanders remain on the sidelines include:

  • “I don’t know what to do or what to say.”
  • “I don’t want to cause a scene.”
  • “It’s not my business.”
  • “I don’t want my friend to be mad at me.”
  • “I’m sure someone else will step in.”

It’s okay to have these thoughts, but it’s important to realize that your actions can have a big impact. In many situations, bystanders have the opportunity to prevent crimes like sexual assault from happening in the first place.  However, always be mindful that your safety, and the safety of others, is the first priority.

The key to keeping your friends safe is learning how to intervene in a way that fits the situation and your comfort level. Having this knowledge on hand can give you the confidence to step in when something isn’t right. One technique to do this successfully is called CARE.

Create a distraction

  • Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.
  • Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, “Let’s go get some food, I’m starving,” or “Let’s get out of here and go for a walk.”
  • Start an activity that draws other people in, like playing cards.
     

Ask directly

  • Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.
  • Ask questions like “Who did you come here with?” or “Would you like me to stay with you?”
  • Start a conversation with them about something unrelated so that they have an opportunity to ask you for help.
     

Refer to an authority

  • Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation.
  • Talk to a superior, security guard, or another employee about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to ensure that everyone is safe.
  • Don’t hesitate to call military law enforcement or 911 if you are concerned about someone else’s safety.


Enlist others

  • It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.
  • Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
  • Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them away from the situation.
  • Enlist the friend of the person you’re concerned about. “Your friend looks like they’ve had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?”

Information on Bystander Intervention was provided by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office from www.sapr.mil

Safety Planning

For many people who have been affected by sexual assault, immediate and long-term safety can be an ongoing concern. Safety planning is a personalized plan to stay safe that may also help reduce the risk of future harm and includes ways to ensure both physical and mental/emotional safety. It can include planning for how to handle a future crisis, how to cope with emotions, considering your options, and making decisions about your next steps. Finding ways to stay and feel safer can be an important step toward healing.

Safety planning looks different for everyone and can range from a full, comprehensive plan, to just identifying one or two resources that can help if needed. You can always reach out the Safe Helpline 24/7 by online chat or phone to safety plan with our trained staff members.  

Some general tips for safety planning if you feel unsafe:

  • Lean on a support network. Creating a list of people you trust to reach out to for support is important when staying safe and recovering from what happened. Identify people that you can build a safety plan with if you are ever feeling unsafe. Examples might include:
  • Memorize essential phone numbers (Victim Advocates, family members’, friends)
  • Establish a list of people you trust to reach out to if you are in crisis. Someone that can be contacted to support you, either in-person or remotely.
  • Create a code word with friends and family members to alert them when you feel unsafe
  • Contact Safe Helpline for more ideas on safety planning, and building a support network
  • Become familiar with safe places. Identify safe places near you such as a local base/installation or civilian resource or a friend/family member’s house. Learn different routes to get to each location and commit them to memory.
  • Keep computer safety in mind. If you think someone might be monitoring your computer use, consider regularly clearing your cache, history, and cookies, here. You could also use a different computer at a friend’s house or a public library.
  • Create a code word. It might be a code between you and your children that means “get out,” or with your support network that means “I need help.”
  • Prepare an excuse. Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times or for an existing situation that might become dangerous. Have these on hand in case you need to get away quickly.

     

Stalking is when an individual follows a pattern or patterns of behavior that leaves another individual feeling nervous, harassed, afraid or in danger. Stalking laws will vary state to state, however, stalking is considered a crime in all 50 states. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time.

Stalking laws and definitions differ from state to state. You can read more about your state’s laws by visiting the Stalking Resource Center. Stalking behavior can take many forms including:

  • Making threats against someone, or that person's family or friends
  • Non-consensual communication, such as repeated phone calls, emails, text messages, and unwanted gifts
  • Repeated physical or visual closeness, like waiting for  someone to arrive at certain locations, following someone, or watching someone from a distance
  • Any other behavior used to contact, harass, track, or threaten someone
  • Be prepared to reach out. If possible, keep your cell phone charged and have emergency contact numbers programmed ahead of time. You may want to save these contacts under a different name. Memorize a few numbers in case you don’t have cell phone access in the future.
  • Change your routine. Be aware of your daily routine and begin to alter it over time. Switch up the way you commute more often, taking different routes or different modes of transportation. Visit the Stalking Resource Center for more ways to stay safe.
  • Tell someone you trust. Stalking shouldn’t be kept a secret. Tell your loved ones, parents or other trusted adults, or the local police for assistance.
     

If you are in a domestic violence situation and need help, the Family Advocacy Program (FAP) is a base/installation resource available to you. You can use the installation locator here to locate FAP points of contact on your installation. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit their website here to learn more about safety planning.

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