Assessing Situations

Here are Six Steps to Think About When Deciding Whether to Take Action

1. Notice an occurrence out of the ordinary.

2. Decide "in your gut" that something is amiss or unacceptable.

3. Ask yourself, "Could I play a role here?"

  • If no one intervenes, what will likely happen?

  • Is someone else better placed to respond? Are they available?  Will they?

  • What would be my purpose in responding?

4. Assess your options for giving help. (See Active Bystander Strategies)

5. Determine the potential risks of taking action.

  • Are there risks to myself?  (See Why Bystanders Don't Act below)

  • Are there risks to others?  (e.g. potential retaliation against the person being "helped")?

  • Is there a low risk option?

  • How could I reduce risks?

  • Is there more information I can get to better assess the situation?

6. Decide whether to act - now or later


Why Bystanders Don't Act

Bystanders sometimes hesitate to to act because:

1. We fear loss of relationships, with the harmdoer or with others who may be uncomfortable with action being taken

2. We fear retaliation, especially if the harmdoer is powerful.

3. We fear embarrassment. especially if we may not be believed or we may be viewed as troublemakers, or as violating other community norms.

4. We feel a lack of competence or uncertainty about what action would be best.

5. We believe someone else will take action (perhaps someone else with more authority or expertise).