There are many ways to prevent sexual assault, from ensuring doors are not propped open to speaking up when you witness a questionable interaction.
Determining whether there is a problem
Not knowing when to intervene is one of the main barriers to bystanders stepping up. Cues that a situation is concerning or becoming dangerous might be obvious or they might be more subtle. Some signs to look for:
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Attempts to get someone drunk in order to "hook up"
- Attempts to physically separate a person, to get them alone
- Intimately touching someone in public, especially if they've just met or the other person is drunk
How to intervene if there is a problem
Here are some general tips for initiating bystander interventions:
- Be friendly. Antagonism begets antagonism, and we want you to be safe too. Being friendly will decrease any awkwardness you might feel; think of it as checking in, not confronting.
- Recruit help. More people means more diffusion of the situation.
- Be as intrusive as necessary. You're making sure both people are safe. (If the building were burning down, you wouldn't hesitate to break up the conversation or knock on the door.)
Some intervention strategies
Talk to a third person. Find a friend of one of the two people and talk about your concerns. Get a friend to step in with one person while you step in with the other.
Distract. Take one person aside and talk to him or her about anything. Your presence will help diffuse the situation.
Interrupt. Knock on the door or just walk in. It's better to interrupt a scene than stand around while someone is assaulted. Do anything to change the mood.