University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Be an Active Bystander

What is an Active Bystander?

  • Every day we witness many things (both good and not so good). This makes us all bystanders.
  • We also make decisions about how to respond to what we see. Our choices can turn us into active bystanders.
  • An active bystander witnesses an act that is harmful (such as name-calling, derogatory joke-telling, rumors, property damage or physical violence) or potentially harmful (such as “hitting on” someone who is too drunk or otherwise incapacitated to consent) and doesn’t just passively observe or walk away.
  • An active bystander DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Why is it important to act?

Taking action early – before a situation escalates – can be effective and safer for everyone involved.

When we take action, we …
  • positively impact not only the people experiencing, but also those committing a harmful act.
  • help give others the confidence to speak up or act.
  • contribute to creating a community where people care about and help each other.
  • improve our own lives by supporting a culture that values healthy relationships and offers help when needed.
When we …
  • stay silent
  • do nothing
  • look the other way
  • say, “It’s none of my business”
  • think, “someone else will deal with it”

… we support hurtful behavior and unequal treatment.

…we participate in a system that allows violence, discrimination and suffering.