Home / Education / Bystander Empowerment

Bystander Empowerment

You can do something

Arizona State University is committed to cultivating a community of care where everyone contributes to a safe and healthy campus environment. Everyone has been in a situation where they helped someone in need, and everyone has been in a situation where they needed help and didn’t get it. The presence of individual leadership and shared responsibility is the key to a thriving community. Our positive actions, big and small, can create a community where all individuals feel safe and supported. You might not change the outcome of every situation every time, but believe in your ability to positively impact the lives of your peers and your community at large. You can do something.

Visit the education page to browse additional educational topics.

Students walking around campus

Identity and intervening

If you notice a situation where someone needs help, but you are unsure if you should intervene or not, acknowledge any bias you may have about the situation. Identity often plays a role in whether or not someone will receive help, or whether or not someone will step in. Intervene to help a member of our community regardless of their race, ethnicity, ability status, gender-identity, or sexual orientation.


Two students having a conversation


Safety should always be of greatest importance when deciding whether or not you are going to intervene in a situation. If you feel unsafe, or are concerned about the safety of someone else, seek help from others or call 911 if it is an emergency.


Students walking around campus at night

Four D's of peer intervention

Often times people do not intervene because they do not know how or do not feel confident to do so. The different strategies below can be used to intervene in situations where someone may need help. Before intervening, also consider your personal safety. If you do not feel safe or fear for the safety of others, contact emergency services immediately.


Speak out! When safe, be direct to intervene in a situation where someone may be causing harm. This might look like saying, “I am not okay with what you just said.” or “Hey, please leave them alone.”


Step in! Interrupt a potentially unsafe or harmful situation by distracting either party. This might look like saying, “Hey, aren’t you in my class?” or “Who wants to go get tacos?”


Know your power! Delegate others to prevent a potentially dangerous or harmful situation. This might look like asking someone to check in on another person, asking them to call for help, or saying “Go call a Lyft!”


Check in! A delayed response is better than no response. If you didn’t intervene in the moment for safety or other reasons, connect with the person who may need support. You could say something like, “I saw what happened, are you okay?”

Poster messages

Here are some tips for intervening based on our “You can do something” poster series.

Observe something while in a crowd? You may be thinking someone else will step in.

Diffusion of responsibility is a social psychological phenomenon in which people are less likely to take action in the presence of others. When you notice a situation where someone may need help and others are around, push back on the diffusion of responsibility by demonstrating your leadership.

  • Don’t wait for someone else to help. Assess the situation and determine if it is safe for you to step in.
  • Identify the problem. Once you have identified the problem, come up with a safe and effective plan to help.
  • Step in and check in. Initiate help and check in with the person afterwards. Connect the person to resources.

Notice someone in distress? Are you thinking, “What do I say?”

Sometimes it can be hard to express empathy because we don’t know what to do or say. If you see someone who is in distress, checking in with them can make a big difference.

  • Break the silence. The first step to helping someone in distress is to let them know you care about them.
  • Share that you’re concerned. Practice empathy by putting aside your personal viewpoints and validating their experiences.
  • Recommend Resources. Ask if they are interested in learning about the resources available to support them through a difficult time.

Witness something while passing by? You may be thinking, “This is not my problem.”

When we see situations occur while we are minding our business, although we care, it can be easy to look the other way and hope someone else might help. Sun Devils Assume Fundamental Responsibility for our community. Contribute to the culture you want to live in by helping to solve the problem.

  • Assess if community well-being is at risk. If at least one member of our community could be harmed, there is a problem.
  • Take personal responsibility. Believe in your ability to change the outcome of a potentially dangerous or harmful situation.
  • Offer help or contact someone to help. Your safety is paramount. If you are concerned about your own well-being, contact someone else to help.

Hear something that could hurt? Are you thinking, “Wow, is everyone okay with this?"

Sometimes we don’t speak up in situations where someone has said something hurtful because we can misinterpret silence by others as acceptance of what was said. Silence doesn’t always mean passivity. When people are uncomfortable by words, sometimes we are silent because we don’t know what to do or say.

  • You’re probably not the only one concerned. If you are wondering if everyone is okay with what was just said, others may be too.
  • If one person speaks up, others will follow.
  • Be the first to speak up. Everyone communicates differently. The relationship you have with the person who said the comment matters.

See something that could escalate? You may be unsure of how to help.

Observing a situation that might escalate can be a scary situation to be in. Situation assessment is important to a successful intervention. If you are unsure of how to help and others are around, talk to them!

  • Engage the help of others. Check in with those around you to see how you might be able to collectively assist.
  • Together, create a plan. Listen to each other and decide how each of you can use your strengths to help.
  • Contact Emergency Services if safety is at risk. After you decide on how to act, decide if you still need to follow up with the police.

Visit our education page to continue expanding your knowledge.