Bystander Intervention Strategies
Safe and positive options to prevent harm or intervene when there is a risk of sexual misconduct
There are hundreds of little comments, harassments, and other forms of abuse that can lead up to a sexually violent act. Think of any event as being on a continuum of behaviours that demand interventions at each step. At one end of the spectrum are healthy, respectful, and safe behaviours. At the other end of the spectrum are sexual assault and other violent behaviours. If we limit our interventions to a culminating “event,” we miss multiple opportunities to do something or say something before a behaviour or a situation escalates and moves to the right along the spectrum.
Always remember that you are not intervening because you are a hero, or because you’re being chivalrous, or because you want to be patted on the back. You are intervening because it is the right thing to do, because it is expected of all CAF members, and it is a meaningful way to do your part in ending harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
The following list of intervention strategies is by no means exhaustive. Use your judgment, common sense and consider your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Name or acknowledge an example of inappropriate sexual behaviour, and open a dialogue for discussion
- Name or identify inappropriate behaviour so it isn’t just glossed over or ignored.
- Publicly support a victimized person
- Help someone who has been the target of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, and/or prevent further injury or offense.
- Use body language to show disapproval
- Refuse to join in when derogatory, degrading, abusive, and violent attitudes or behaviours are being displayed. Crossing arms, looking away, or facial expressions are all examples of this.
- Interrupt the behaviour
- Intervention may be direct and obvious, such as stating directly to the offending person that the behaviour is unacceptable. Intervention can also be via subterfuge, such as interrupting an argument to ask for directions.
- Use humour (with care)
- If you are witty, this may fit with your style. Be careful, not to be so witty that you end up mocking or making light of your own feelings or reactions.
- Funny doesn’t mean unimportant.
- Talk privately with the person who acted inappropriately
- Give clear feedback and express your opinion calmly and privately.
- Talk privately with the person who is the target of the perpetrator
- Express your opinion calmly and offer your support.
- Ask for help directly or indirectly
- Make sure that something is done, while acknowledging that you do not have the skill or capacity to handle it. You can talk with your immediate supervisor, to the aggressor’s immediate supervisor, to your unit harassment advisor, to the RSM, or to the CO, for example.
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