Being an Active Bystander

A bystander is anyone who sees or hears about a behavior that could lead to something high risk or harmful. Bystanders face a choice of, "Do I get involved, or do I ignore the situation?"

A passive bystander is someone who chooses to do nothing. An active bystander is someone who chooses to do something.

What can an active bystander do?

Direct. Distract. Delegate.

Everyone has barriers to intervening when they see harm. Barriers are things that stop us from getting involved.

  • I'm introverted and I don't feel comfortable walking up to someone
  • It's not my business
  • I don't want to make a scene
  • Someone else will do it
  • I'm afraid things will escalate
  • I don't want to confront a friend/mentor/leader
  • I could be wrong

The 3 D's are active bystander techniques that help you act in spite of your barriers


Direct means doing something yourself.

Confront a friend or peer for doing something harmful to someone else. Check in on someone you might be worried about. Tell someone to stop. Ask someone if they need help. 


If you can't do something yourself because of your barriers, enlist the support of others to take direct action.

Ask the friends of someone doing harm or being harmed to help. Talk to a trusted RA, supervisor, or professor. Ask your coach to check in. Tell the bartender or party host what's going on. Leave an anonymous note for the team captain, club president, or Greek advisor. 


If addressing things directly or acknowledging that you see something wrong comes up against your barriers, distraction can be a powerful tool for defusing a harmful situation. 

"Accidentally" spill a drink. Ask to borrow the phone of someone in a risky situation. Ask for a ride because you're "too drunk." Start an unrelated conversation. Ask someone to help you find your friends. 

Still feel unsure?

Connect with us about attending an in person training, where we can help you get more comfortable confronting your barriers. Remember, we all have them. The goal is not to make them go away. It's to find something that works for us even with our existing barriers.

Your choice to act could mean the difference between someone being harmed and someone being safe. It matters, and it is essential to creating a safer campus culture at Chico State.


Even if you never see someone doing harm or being harmed, you can be part of prevention by proactively changing norms on our campus. Ask yourself: If someone were to join your friend group, organization, work, class, or event, how would they know that violence isn't okay and won't be tolerated? By making it clear that you don't tolerate violence and that you expect others to do their part to stop it, you are helping to create a campus culture where violence is less possible.