Bystander Intervention

Department of Counseling Services

Campus:  Blountville 
Office:  Counseling Services
Room:  C2101, General Studies Building
Office Hours:  8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday 
Address:  2425 Highway 75, P.O. Box 246, Blountville, TN 37617  
Phone:  423.354.2587  
Fax:  423.323.0215  

Pledge to SAVE:  Be Safe. Be Alert. Be Vocal. Be Engaged! 

Bystander Intervention is a helping behavior whereby a bystander intervenes directly or indirectly in emergency or non-emergency situations. Examples of situations where active or pro-social bystander intervention has proven effective include sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, hate crime, discrimination, harassment, bullying and hazing, suicidality, eating disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and issues of academic integrity.

Based upon the 1968 research of Latané and Darley who identified the negative bystander effect (individuals offer less help when other people are present), positive bystander intervention strategies begin when individuals notice the behavior of concern, interpret the behavior as a problem, assume personal responsibility for intervention, understand how to offer assistance, and implement the help.

Always be aware of your personal safety while being an active bystander. Intervene only when it is safe to do so. The goal of bystander intervention is not to risk lives, but rather to save lives and prevent possible acts of violence.

The most basic active bystander intervention strategy for emergency and non-emergency situations is to report the incident by calling the Northeast State Police Department at 423.677.7927 (emergency cell). Emergency notifications can also be made by calling 9-1-1.

Additional intervention strategies that may be categorized as Direct, Distract, Delegate, or Delay include:

  • Encourage victims to self-report; never dismiss claims of sexual violence or domestic violence; never place blame on the victim of an act of violence
  • Be empathetic; know the difference between sympathy and empathy
  • Be vigilant; watch out for your fellow students, co-workers, acquaintances, friends, and family
  • Avoid using violence when intervening; approach in a friendly, honest, and direct manner
  • Create and negotiate possible solutions; maintain an open dialogue; communicate clearly; everyone has the right to say, "No."  
  • Intervene and ask if a person needs help (e.g., “Do you need a ride?” or "Do you want me to call the Campus Police?")  
  • Do not leave another person alone in a situation in which you feel uncomfortable; develop a buddy system  
  • Use distraction techniques such as humor, reframing, redirection, or personalization to reduce tension between individuals and to stall for time in which to intervene or get help 
  • Recruit help; group interventions can make individuals aware of patterns of behaviors of concern
  • Focus on your feelings about the behavior rather than criticizing the person  
  • Encourage respect; speak up if you find a behavior offensive (e.g., do not laugh at offensive jokes but rather indicate your disapproval)
  • Use body language that indicates disapproval of or concern about a behavior (e.g., silent stare, crossed arms, wrinkling of the nose, raised eyebrows and wide eyes, stepping between two people) 

Northeast State utilizes various active bystander intervention curricula to provide training opportunities for students and employees. For more information on bystander intervention or to schedule a training session, please contact Counseling Services at 423.354.2587 or email

Remember the Safe Northeast acronym for bystander intervention: SAVE (Be Safe. Be Alert. Be Vocal. Be Engaged!). Make a personal commitment to keep others safe from sexual assault and acts of violence. Participate in Northeast State’s Pledge to SAVE campaign. Be part of the solution!

Go to Safe Northeast