Bystander Intervention Tips

Sometimes, we see abuse happening right in front of us. But, often, we don’t know what to do in those moments. There are some strategies you can use to talk to someone who you think might be abusive and/or to respond if you see abuse happening.

If someone you know may be abusing their partner, you could say things like:

  • I noticed how you were talking to your partner and I feel its disrespectful. She/he doesn’t deserve that. Can we talk about this?
  • I’ve noticed that your partner has had a lot of injuries and I’m concerned they may be coming from you. Can we talk about this?
  • I’ve noticed that your partner seems afraid (or sad) around you. What’s going on in your relationship?
  • I’m concerned about your relationship and want to help. Let’s find some resources you can turn to.

If you see abusive actions happening, you could do things like:

Distract: Indirectly intervene by asking for the time or directions, pretending to know the person, asking if they know when the next bus is, or other such tactics.

Delay: Wait to do something if you are unsure that something abusive is going on, or if you don’t feel safe intervening.

Delegate: Find others nearby who can help you.

Direct: Confront (safely and nonviolently) the abusive person to indicate you see a problem. If in a store, restaurant or bar, you can also ask an authorized person such as a manager or bartender to assist you or take over. Call 911 if the situation is dangerous.

 Remember:

  • Your safety is important too, so approach situations carefully and do not intervene if you don’t feel safe.
  • Interventions can sometimes prompt an escalation of violence, so consider that before you act.
  • Supporting survivors takes patience and persistence.
  • Never judge survivors for their response to abuse. They have the best insight into their partners’ reactions and behavior and are doing what they can to survive. This may include resisting your well-intended intervention.
  • Our 24-hour Helpline can support you too, and can also direct you to treatment services for people who abuse.
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