Bystander Intervention is the interruption of behavior or speech by someone who is present for or a bystander to that behavior or speech. More simply, it is spontaneously helping in a situation when help is needed.
Action Zone Bystander Intervention training teaches members of the NYU community strategies to effectively intervene in concerning or emergency situations in which no one else has yet taken action to help. In a higher education setting, Bystander Intervention techniques are most often applied to circumstances of alcohol misuse, sexual assault, bias incidents, and mental health challenges.
Bystander intervention is not just about helping in challenging moments, but also about changing social norms and promoting community. Active bystanders pay attention, speak up, take initiative, and defy conformity.
To learn more, request or enroll in an Action Zone training session, or check out these resources:
If someone you know has been sexually assaulted:
If someone you know is showing signs of distress or crisis – for example: references to death, withdrawal from friends, loss of interest in school or other activities, abrupt changes in mood, etc.:
- Question: Ask questions to see how the person is doing; point out specific concerns you have
- Persuade: Encourage the person to seek and accept help
- Refer: Refer the person to specific, appropriate resources (offer to call on their behalf)
In order to be effective allies to others, we can and should speak up if we hear oppressive comments. Avoiding the comment or confronting the speaker aggressively may make the situation worse. The “Shifting the Person” method can be a useful approach:
Being an ally to someone in need doesn’t have to be a huge production. Simple actions can change someone’s day for the better: if the person behind you on line to buy coffee seems to be in a really big hurry, let them go ahead; pay a shy classmate a compliment; give up your seat on the subway to someone who’s carrying something heavy. Opportunities abound to practice your Bystander Intervention skills in safe and positive ways, and this practice can help build your confidence to intervene in tougher situations.
In some situations, it can be most effective to intervene using an indirect approach. These include: when the bystander is witnessing a physical conflict between two people or wants to help someone in distress, in an emergency that requires medical or other professional skills, or when the situation at hand just doesn't feel safe. Following are some resources you can use when direct intervention is not possible or helpful, or when arming yourself and/or others with information is the best option.
Counseling and Wellness Services
Health Promotion Office
STI Testing at the Student Health Center
May be scheduled through:
Primary Care: 212-443-1122
Women’s Health: 212-443-1166
Moses Center for Students with Disabilities
Residential Life and Housing Services
LGBTQ Student Center
Center for Multicultural Education and Programs
Center for Spiritual Life
Wasserman Center for Career Development
Quit & Win Smoking Cessation
Office of Equal Opportunity (Title IX Coordinator’s office)
Sexual Respect at NYU
In case of emergency, call 911
NYPD Sex Crimes Report Line
Bellevue Hospital Rape Crisis Program
462 1st Ave, CD Building, Room CD408
Beth Israel Medical Center Rape Crisis & Domestic Violence Intervention
317 East 17th Street, 4th Floor
Rape, Sexual Assault, Incest: 212-227-3000
Crime Victims/Crisis Support: 866-689-HELP
Domestic Violence: 800-621-4673
Callen-Lorde Health Center
Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Intergroup (Alcoholics Anonymous of NYC)
307 Seventh Avenue (West 28th St.), Room 201
Click here for a list of student-recommended 12 Step programs at and near Washington Square
It’s often best to consult or enlist resources like these rather than diving headfirst into a dicey or confusing situation. When in doubt, get help giving help.