Bystander Intervention - University of Houston
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Bystander Intervention

"When you witness a potential sexual assault or other behavior that promotes a culture of violence, don’t assume someone else will help or that it’s none of your business; speak up, step in and seek help."

One method for possibly preventing sexual assault is bystander intervention. Active bystander intervention discourages attitudes and behaviors that support sexual assault and other harmful behavior. When you witness a potential sexual assault or other behavior that promotes a culture of violence, it’s easy to that assume someone else will help or that it’s none of your business. However, to create a culture of support, it is important that we empower ourselves to speak up, step in and seek help when possible. There are many situations that occur prior to sexual misconduct that are appropriate and safe for intervention. Below are some ways that we can intervene on behalf of others.

In order to intervene, first someone has to:

  1. Notice the incident: Bystanders first must notice the incident taking place. It's important to become attune to what situations may be risky; i.e., if you're at a party, and you see someone stumbling as they're being led into a different room, this is a risky situation.
  2. Interpret the incident as emergency: By "emergency", we mean a situation wherein there is risk of sexual or domestic violence occurring in the near future.
  3. Assume responsibility for intervening: It has been found that often, people believe that someone else will help in a situation where there are many people around. However, it is important to realize that others may also be thinking the same thing. If you're unsure if you should do something, ask a friend what they think -- it might be the case that they've been thinking the same thing.
  4. Have the bystander intervention skills to help: There are a number of different techniques that someone can use to intervene in a risky situation, some of which we've listed the following Bystander Intervention Techniques (the 4 Ds) below.

Assess the situation and make your safety and the well-being of others a priority. When a situation that threatens physical harm to yourself or another student, ask someone for help or contact your campus police department. However, if after you have assessed the situation, you recognize a problem, and feel that you can intervene without putting yourself in danger, you should step in to prevent the harassment or violence from occurring. The goal of intervening is to prevent violence without causing further threat or harm. Contact the police if the situation escalates or if anyone is in imminent danger.

Ways to Intervene


  • Staying with someone who may be in trouble
  • Letting a friend know that their behavior could hurt someone else and help them reconsider
  • Telling someone their language is problematic or offensive


  • Getting help from a Resident Advisor or Desk Assistant in Student Housing
  • Asking the party host if they’ll tell someone to leave
  • Grabbing a friend and intervening together


  • Suggesting a way out for a person in a potentially dangerous situation (ex. “Want to go grab dinner somewhere else?”)
  • Spilling a drink
  • Telling the person engaging in abusive behavior that they’re needed in another room  

Immediately After

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you may find the following information helpful:

  • First, remember that what happened is not your fault. You did not cause the assault, and no matter what happened, you did not deserve it.
  • Get to a safe place. Get away from your assailant to a location where you can call for help. Ideally, find a secure place where you aren’t alone. This can include a campus health center, or the home of a nearby friend or family member.
  • Consider contacting the authorities. Call 911 to report the incident right away. Provide the dispatcher with the time, place, and description of your assailant. Wait for the police to arrive so that they can collect your statement. If you do decide to call the police, please consider the following:
    • Try not to change anything at the location where the assault occurred.
    • Remember that eating or drinking, showering, brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, and changing or altering your clothes could destroy physical evidence that may be helpful if you later decide to pursue legal action.
  • Get medical attention. Even if you don't want to file a police report, consider receiving medical attention at a doctor’s office, urgent care clinic or a hospital as soon as possible. Doctors and/or a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner will help ensure that you are healthy, provide options to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, and collect valuable evidence that may be useful in the future, even if you are unsure about pursuing legal action now. Physical evidence can only be collected for a short period of time after an assault, but in many cases, a survivor has ten years to decide whether to pursue a criminal case (or ten years after one’s 18th birthday if the assault took place prior to the survivor turning 18). Also, you should try to save anything that might contain the perpetrator’s DNA, because investigators and medical professionals can collect this and use it to build a case against your assailant. Even if you don’t think you want to file a police report, you might change your mind at a later date. Therefore you should not:
    • Bathe or shower
    • Brush teeth, rinse mouth, etc.
    • Use the restroom
    • Change clothes
    • Comb hair
    • Clean up the crime scene
    • Move anything the offender may have touched
  • Consider contacting the Title IX Coordinator for your campus. The Title IX coordinator can provide you with resources and various options that are available to you.


If you are a victim of abuse or sexual assault, you may find the following information regarding ongoing care helpful:

Make safe arrangements

If you live with an abusive partner, make arrangements with your dorm staff, a safe home, or friends to relocate to a new residence. To prevent future incidents, do not let your assailant know where you will be living.

Seek counseling

Contact your campus health service office and inform them you need a crisis counselor who specializes in sexual assault. You can also contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE to speak with a counselor over the phone immediately.

File a civil protection order (CPO)

If you know the identity of your assailant, you can pursue a protection order, also known as a restraining order. A court can order your attacker to stay away from you and not communicate with you. An assailant who violates a CPO can face criminal charges. The Texas State Law Library provides multiple resources for requesting a CPO, including a Protective Order Kit.

If you are a friend of a victim of sexual assault, you may find the following information regarding ongoing care helpful in your support of them

  • Many victims blame themselves for an attack. Inform the victim that the sexual assault was not their fault.
  • Be a supportive listener. Thank the victim for telling you about this. Avoid phrases that evoke powerlessness at first, including "I'm sorry."
  • If you saw the attacker or witnessed any part of the assault, take detailed notes regarding the incident.
  • Accompany the victim to the hospital and ensure they meet with medical professionals who specialize in sexual assault trauma.
  • Follow up with the victim. Encourage participation in counseling sessions and support groups.
  • Watch the survivor's emotional and physical status. According to The White House Council on Women and Girls, victims of sexual assault or rape are at higher risk for mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, eating disorders, or suicidal ideations.

Reprinted and adapted from Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus - Best Colleges, 2014-10-07

Supportive Measures

Where appropriate, UHS will implement supportive measures on its own initiative or in response to a request from a complainant (the alleged victim of sexual misconduct) or respondent (the alleged perpetrator of sexual misconduct).

Supportive measures for students may include, but are not limited to:

  • Access to on-campus counseling services and assistance in setting up an initial appointment;
  • "No-contact directives" (also known as stay away orders or directives to desist) issued by the campus Title IX Coordinator;
  • Rescheduling of exams and assignments;
  • Providing alternative course completion options;
  • Changing class schedules, including the ability to transfer course sections or withdraw from a course without penalty;
  • Changing work schedules, job assignments, or job locations for University employment;
  • Changing residence hall assignments
  • Providing an escort to ensure safe movement between classes and activities;
  • Providing academic support services, such as tutoring;
  • Limiting or barring an individual’s or organization’s access to certain UHS-owned facilities or activities;
  • Interim residential expulsion of the respondent;
  • Interim suspension of the respondent;
  • Student-requested leaves of absence.

Supportive measures for faculty and staff may include, but are not limited to:

  • Access to on-campus counseling services and assistance in setting up an initial appointment;
  • Changing work schedules, job assignments, or job locations;
  • Limiting or barring an individual’s or organization’s access to certain Vanderbilt-owned facilities or activities;
  • Providing an escort to ensure safe movement on campus;
  • Administrative leave;
  • UHS-imposed leave or physical separation from individuals or locations.