A bystander, in terms of dating abuse, is an individual who does not participate in the abuse, but is an outside observer of it. Bystanders may know the people involved or they may not. Either way, bystanders have the power to stop abuse that is happening, intervene before abuse happens, or get help for the person being abused. Being an active bystander means doing something to stop abuse. Even if you feel it is not your place to get involved, remember that dating abuse is not a personal problem; it is a serious crime that affects us all.
One thing to keep in mind before you get involved in any situation is safety – yours and the victim’s. You should never do anything that can put yourself or the person being abused in danger. If you think a situation might be dangerous, call the police.
How Can I Help?
There are lots of ways to be an active bystander, like:
- Speak out - If you see a friend talk to or treat his or her partner disrespectfully, say something. Try something like, “Hey. I heard the way you were talking to Chris. That was really mean. Why do you treat Chris like that?”
- Respond as a group - when talking to someone about abuse, it sometimes helps to have friends join you for the conversation.
- Create a distraction - If you see someone being abusive, create a distraction. For example, spill your drink, ask the abuser for directions, or stand nearby pretending to talk on your cell phone.
Remember – If things get out of hand or become too serious, or if you’re not sure what to do, call the police.
For more on being an active bystander: