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Bystander Intervention

Sexual assault and relationship abuse impacts many people on college campuses. Nationally, it’s estimated that 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Women in particular are most vulnerable between the ages of 16 and 24. LGBTQ students face an increased risk of violence: nearly 1 in 4 undergraduate students identifying as transgender, gender non-conforming, questioning or other experience sexual assault after enrolling in a higher education institution. College aged men and women also experience relationship abuse at high rates.

UIC Community Members Can Be Active Bystanders!

What is Bystander Intervention?
Bystander intervention is a prevention strategy that encourages witnesses to take safe action when they see a situation that might lead to sexual violence or abuse, and to support victims after an incident. At UIC, we all have a part to play in keeping the community safe. As a bystander, you can serve a critical role in preventing interpersonal violence on campus. It is just like the public transportation safety campaigns; "If you see something, say something." Your role in maintaining a safe campus environment is the same.

While this sounds easy, sometimes it is not. The first step is for a bystander to recognize that a certain action/comment/situation may be a stepping stone to increasingly severe acts of violence. If something makes you feel uncomfortable or makes you concerned for the safety of another person, trust your gut feeling. The second step is knowing what to do. We know that intervening in these situations can be overwhelming. UIC offers many bystander workshops through the Campus Advocacy Network in order to help identify what safe and positive options you have and to build your confidence and skills.

What Can I Do To Help?
When you are in a situation in which you feel uncomfortable or feel someone is at risk for harm, the 4 D's will help you select a course of action.

The 4 D's are:

  1. Direct
  2. Distract
  3. Delegate
  4. Delay

The DIRECT approach uses words or actions to stop what is going on. For example, telling someone that "It's not going to happen, that person is too drunk to go home with you tonight" or saying "I don't appreciate hearing those kinds of jokes" in response to a racist, sexist or homophobic joke. This approach is useful in situations in which you feel safe and capable enough to intervene directly.

The DISTRACTION approach is exactly what it sounds like; using indirect strategies to interrupt what is going on. It is especially useful when a direct approach may escalate things for the person involved or result in harm to you. Examples include telling someone, "I think someone called the police because of the party noise" in response to an escalating fight or asking someone to help you find your lost cell phone to interrupt attempts to "hook up" with an incapacitated person.

DELEGATING is when you involve someone who has social power in that situation or some type of authority. You can get your friends, housing RAs or the police involved. You do not have to do this alone. Delegation is useful when there is an emergency situation or when personal risk of harm or retaliation are a possibility.

DELAYED RESPONSE is when you had concerns about a situation and you may not have done anything about it at the time. It's not too late! There is still an opportunity to talk to the person you were concerned about and provide them with support and referrals, or to the person whose behavior made your feel uncomfortable and tell them what they did or said was not alright with you. You can also enlist the help of others by going to the police or others in authority such as the Office of the Dean of Students or Title IX Coordinator, or confidentially to the Campus Advocacy Network.

What Can My Friends and I Do To Be Safe?
As members of the UIC community you can help keep yourself and your friends safe. Remember these tips when you plan to go out:

Have a plan.
Talk with your friends about your plans for the night BEFORE you go out. Do you feel like drinking? Are you interested in hooking up? Where do you want to go? Having a clear plan ahead of time helps friends look after one another.

Go out together.
Go out as a group and come home as a group. Never separate and never leave your friend(s) behind. Being with others is a good idea when a situation looks dangerous.

Watch out for others.
If you are walking at night with friends and notice a woman walking by herself in the same direction, ask her to join you so she doesn’t have to walk alone.

Defuse situations.
If you see a friend coming on too strong to someone who may be too drunk to make a consensual decision, interrupt, distract, or redirect the situation. If you are too embarrassed or shy to speak out, get someone else to step in. Call (911) or the UIC Police at (312) 355-5555 or someone else in authority or yell for help to draw attention to the situation.

Trust your instincts.
If a situation or person doesn’t seem “right” to you, trust your gut and remove yourself, if possible, from the situation.