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Active Bystander

What is a Bystander? 

A bystander is a person who observes a conflict or unacceptable behavior. The observed behavior may be serious or minor, one-time or repeated, but the bystander knows that the behavior is harmful or likely to make a situation worse. This person may be in a position to discourage, prevent or interrupt unacceptable behavior. The bystander has two options: to remain a passive bystander or become an active bystander. A passive bystander is one who observes but does not intervene in any way.

How Can I become an Active Bystander?

Steps to becoming an Active Bystander:

  1. Notice a situation that is out of the ordinary
. Does your "gut" tell you something is wrong?
  2. Ask yourself "Could I play a role here?"

    1. If no one intervenes, what will likely happen?
    2. Is someone else better equipped to respond?
    3. What would be my purpose in responding?
  3. Assess your options for providing help
. Use your words; don’t use violence to end violence.
  4. Determine the potential risk(s) of taking action
    1. Are there risks to myself and/or others?
    2. Is there a low-risk option?
    3. How could I reduce risks?
  5. Determine how to implement your choice(s) safely

Intervention Strategies

Our colleagues at Arizona State University have developed a Bystander Intervention Program which provides useful intervention strategies.

Also, check out this video on Bystander Intervention created by American University.

[Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence, Substance Abuse, Hazing, Relationship Violence] 


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Under Title IX, sexual violence is a severe form of sexual harassment. Sexual violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at the University of New Mexico. Sexual violence may be committed by a stranger, an acquaintance or someone with whom the victim is involved in an intimate or sexual relationship. Victims of sexual violence are encouraged to report what happened to law enforcement and seek assistance from any of the resources, on and off campus, listed in this publication. 

Please contact UNM's Title IX Coordinator, Angela Catena, at for more information about Title IX.