Bystander Intervention: What Is It? (and More)

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Choosing to Intervene & Make a Difference

by Aspen Lofgren, Unspoken Voices Contributor


What is bystander intervention? Firstly, it exists due to the bystander effect, which happens when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in a situation (Source: Psychology Today). Now, bystander intervention is the opposite of that, recognizing a potentially harmful situation and choosing to intervene in a way that could positively influence the outcome (Source: Lehigh University). Bystander intervention does not need to be this big and dramatic gesture.  It can be simple as stepping in when you see a student being bullied in the hallway or speaking out against your teammates when they talk inappropriately of women/girls.

There are so many situations in life where bystander intervention is needed and far too many people do not know the best and safest way to intervene. I can think of countless examples of personal experience of where I did not intervene because I did not know what to do.  Now as a youth worker, I find that the youth I work with are most commonly the victims of bullying due to their disability. Since I do not work in the schools of my youth, I am not able to intervene immediately. But, if a youth does begin to open up about being bullied by a student at school, I ask the student if I can talk with their parent about the situation as well as the school. If it is not so serious situation, that’s when I ask the permission of the student to share- you don’t want to break their trust.  If it is a more serious situation where there is physical violence and very hurtful verbal abuse, I would explain to the youth that the situation is serious and that I will have to talk to their parent and school because I am afraid for their safety and wellbeing.  My actions are not grand gestures but can positively change the student’s life.
 

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