When people think about bullying, they tend to only remember two parties; The bully and the victim. We often forget that there is a third and equally important group: The bystanders. A bystander is anyone who witnesses an act of bullying. This can be a family member, a friend, a coworker, or even a stranger.
People often assume that anyone who witnesses bullying would immediately jump into action to stop the abuse, but this is not always the case. There are many reasons as to why a bystander may not interject in a bullying situation, regardless of if they know it isn’t right. They may feel unsafe to jump in, or worried that it will ruin their own social image. Regardless of what the reason may be, this can be combatted through a little bit of education. We have provided a few tips on how you can train yourself to be an “upstander” - someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make a difference.
The first step is to question the situation. Evaluate what bullying is occurring, and whether it even is bullying. Take a moment to decide how you should step in. It is also extremely important to assess whether the situation is dangerous or not. If there is an immediate threat of violence, do not jump in and rather alert some form of authority.
You can start by speaking up. This can be anywhere from making a joke to shift the conversation to flat out calling out the bully. Regardless of what avenue you take, remember to not make an overly harsh comment. There’s no point in attempting to stop a bully by being a bully yourself.
Providing an escape for the victim is another important concept. Let the victim know that you are there for them, and willing to pull them out of the situation. Also, make sure to ask them if they are okay. If the situation was not safe for you to initially interject, make sure to alert someone of what happened afterward. You should do this even if you interjected during the situation, as the issue may have been a repeated problem. Make sure that you talk to someone who is trusted and won’t put either you or the victim at more risk.
Acknowledge that if you step in, others will likely follow. Many people will disapprove of the bullying, but will only act as soon as they see that it is a common action. REMEMBER: only step in if it is SAFE for you to do so. Remembering these points will help form you into an active up-stander; you can really make a difference the next time you witness bullying.