Active Bystander Guidance

What is an active bystander?

When we notice inappropriate or exclusionary behaviour in our student groups, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to respond particularly as sometimes it can be your friends or peers who are behaving inappropriately. It is a committee member's responsibility to tackle these issues if comfortable to do so. Often, we may feel the urge to help but are not sure of how to do this. This is where being an active bystander comes in.

A bystander is a person who is present and witnesses something but is not directly involved in it. An active bystander is someone who not only witnesses a situation but takes action to keep a situation from escalating or to disrupt a problematic situation.

What behaviours should you be challenging?

  • Bullying & Harassment
  • Abuse of Power Dynamics
  • Discrimination (including but not limited misogyny, racism, religious hate crimes)
  • Poor CSP social behaviours including lad culture, excessive drinking etc.
  • Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour (See more on our consent awareness page)
  • Any breaking of the law

How to be a Active Bystander

Before you take action, it is important to assess the situation and respond in a way that ensures the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved. You can do this by following the ABCs, followed by the 5 D's. If you choose to act because you have assessed the situation, please take a step back after to assess your own wellbeing and seek support if needed.

(A) Assess the situation - If you see someone in trouble, ask yourself if you can help safely in any way. Remember, your personal safety is a priority – never put yourself at risk. 

(B) Be in a group - It’s safer to call out behaviour or intervene in a group. If this is not an option, report it to others who can act. 

(C) Care for the victim - Talk to the person who you think may need help. Ask them if they are OK. 

Direct action - Call out negative behaviour, tell the person to stop or ask the victim if they are OK. Remember - it is safest to do this if you are in a group. If you are alone, choose one of the other options below. 

Distract - You could start a conversation with the perpetrator to allow their potential target to move away or get the victim out of the situation by telling them they need to take a call, or you need to speak to them. Alternatively, try distracting, or redirecting the situation. 

Delegate - You could alternatively get someone else to step in. Any decent venue has a zero-tolerance policy on harassment, so the staff there will act. 

Delay - If the situation is too dangerous to challenge, (for example, there is a threat of violence, or you are outnumbered) just wait for the situation to pass then ask the victim later if they are OK. You should also offer to report it when it’s safe to do so. 

Document - Write down what happened, where and when. This will make it easier to follow up on a report. 

Reporting and Supporting

Whether you have chosen to be an active bystander or not, you always have the responsibility as a committee member to report the issues that you have noticed within you CSP. There are a number of ways you can do this: 

If someone needs support after being a victim of any of the above inappropriate behaviours, you can direct to the below for support: