Prevention Methods

Active Bystander Intervention

One of the most effective methods of preventing sexual assault is bystander intervention. What is Active Bystander Intervention?


  • This approach encourages people to identify situations that might lead to a sexual assault and then safely intervene to prevent an assault from occurring.

  • Active Bystander Intervention discourages victim blaming by switching the focus of prevention to what a community of people can do collectively.

  • The approach also allows for a change in cultural expectations by empowering everyone to say or do something when they see inappropriate or harmful behavior.

  • This method of intervention places the responsibility of sexual assault prevention on both men and women.


How to Intervene

There are three components to Active Bystander Intervention.

  • Recognizing when to intervene.

    • Some people might be concerned that they are being encouraged to place themselves in jeopardy to stop crimes in progress. This is not the case. There are many situations and events that occur prior to a sexual assault that are appropriate for intervention. Active bystander intervention encourages people to watch for those behaviors and situations that appear to be inappropriate, coercive, and harassing.

  • Considering whether the situation needs attention.

    • The Department of Defense has chosen to link “duty” with sexual assault prevention. Service members need to understand that it is their moral duty to pay attention to situations that put their friends and co-workers at risk.

  • Deciding if there is a responsibility to act.

    • A great deal of research has been done to understand the conditions that encourage people to get involved. There are situational factors that influence a person’s willingness to act. These include the presence of other witnesses, the uncertainty of the situation, the apparent level of danger or risk to the victim, and the setting of the event. Personal characteristics of the bystander also contribute to a decision to act.


Help Someone You Know

When choosing what form of assistance to use, there are a variety of ways to intervene. Some of them are direct, and some of them are less obvious to the perpetrator:

  • Making up an excuse to get the potential victim out of a potentially dangerous situation.

  • Letting a friend or co-worker know that his or her actions may lead to serious consequences.

  • Never leaving the victim’s side, despite the efforts of someone to get the victim alone or away from you.

  • Using a group of friends to remind someone behaving inappropriately that his/her behavior should be respectful.

  • Taking steps to curb someone’s use of alcohol before problems occur.

  • Calling the authorities when the situation warrants.


Understanding how to safely implement the choice

Safety is paramount in active bystander intervention. Usually, intervening in a group is safer than intervening individually. Also, choosing a method of intervention that de-escalates the situation is safer than attempting a confrontation. However, there is no single rule that can account for every situation. Service members must use good judgment and always put safety first.



1. Information on Bystander Intervention was provided by the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office from:

Risk Reduction and Prevention Safety


Common sense, situational awareness, and trusting your instincts will reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted.


Following the tips below may decrease your chances of being attacked:

  • If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation.

  • Do not leave your beverage unattended or accept a drink from an open container.

  • When you are with someone, communicate clearly to ensure he or she knows your limits from the beginning. Both verbal and nonverbal (body language) communication can be used to ensure the message is understood.

  • If you go on a date with someone you do not know very well, tell a close friend what your plans are.

  • You have the right to say "No" even if you:

    • First say “Yes,” and then change your mind;

    • Have had sex with this partner before;

    • Have been kissing or “making out"; and

    • Are wearing what is perceived to be “provocative” clothing.

  • Always have extra money to get home. Have a plan for someone you can call if you need help.

  • If you feel uncomfortable, scared or pressured, act quickly to end the situation. Say "Stop it" and leave or call for help.

  • When you go to a party, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, watch out for each other and leave together.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

  • Do not allow yourself to be isolated with a person you do not know or trust.

  • Travel with a friend or in a group.

  • Walk only in lighted areas after dark.

  • Keep the doors to homes, barracks, and cars locked.

  • Know where the phone is located.


As with any violent crime, there’s nothing you can do to guarantee that you will not be a victim of sexual assault. If you are sexually assaulted, remember that it is not your fault.

It Only Takes One Person

You have options when it comes to stopping sexual violence. It’s important to remember that even when it is hard, there is always something you can do. By taking a stand, you can help stop sexual violence in your community.  Just remember you have the Three D’s*


1. You can be DIRECT.
Walk up and intervene. Respectfully ask that the offender stop the behavior and explain to them why it’s wrong.


2. You can DISTRACT.
Use a diversion to stop the behavior. Walk up and ask for directions or ask for the time. If it’s someone you know, talk about something you have in common with them.


3. You can DELEGATE.
Ask a friend, use the buddy system or call your local authorities to stop the behavior.

Most important, safety first. If you ever feel that there is immediate physical danger to yourself or the victim, you should dial 911.


If everyone does their small part, we can help prevent sexual violence of any kind. 

* Edwards (2009), Green Dot Violence Prevention Strategy,



What Else Can You Do?


Learn to recognize sexual assault. 
Whether it’s a sexist joke, harassing someone because of their sexual orientation, groping or an act of rape, it’s sexual violence. We all should know how to recognize sexual assault.


Know what a healthy relationship looks like.
Healthy relationships are based on mutual trust and respect, and when it comes to sex, it should always be between consenting adults. You should be able to communicate your needs and desires clearly and have them be respected by your partner at all times.


Make and encourage smart and safe decisions.
Whether it’s staying away from drugs and alcohol when you’re thinking about having sex, going out in a group and making sure that you watch over your friends, making smart and safe choices is not only for you, it’s for those around you. Talk to your family and friends about making smart and safe decisions.


Don’t give in to behavior that objectifies others and promotes negative stereotypes. 
Sometimes going against behaviors that are hurtful to others is difficult. It’s important to us that we are “one of the gang,” so it’s always easier to go along with your friends rather than speak out. But when you hear or see something that you know is inappropriate or hurts another person, it’s important that you don’t participate. And it’s just as important that you stop what’s going on.


Be an engaged bystander.
An engaged bystander is a person who recognizes sexual violence when it happens and takes action to stop it. It’s not always the easiest thing to do. We worry about what others will think of us, it sometimes can be embarrassing to speak up, and too often we leave it up to someone else. But whether it’s walking up and stopping the violence, asking a friend you’re with to jump in or perhaps by just distracting someone, we all have to decide how we will speak up against sexual violence. Now ask yourself, what will you do?





  • Approach sexual assault as a Men's issue. See yourself not only as a possible offender but also as an empowered bystander who can talk to his peers and change attitudes.

  • Speak Up! If a brother, friend, classmate or teammate is being disrespectful to a partner / date - using derogatory or degrading names, call him out on his behavior.

  • Be courageous. Look at your own attitudes. Think about how your actions may inadvertently hurt someone or perpetuate sexism. Work to change those attitudes and actions. Don't have sex with anyone unless they say yes or give you an overt signal. When in doubt - ask.

  • Help survivors. If a friend has been the victim of sexual assault, including acquaintance rape, listen without judgment. Gently ask what you can do to help.

  • Think critically about advertisements, articles, movies etc. Don't support products and places that perpetuate sexism or the sexual exploitation of children or adults.

  • Speak out against homophobia and gay bashing.

  • Understand cultural differences. Don't stereotype people. Ask what you can do or if there is anyone else that you could help the survivor contact.

  • Mentor young boys. Most importantly, be a good role model for them, offering them alternatives to violence and controlling behaviors.






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