Bystander Intervention – How Training Helps

19th November 2019

You know inappropriate behaviour when you see it. But do you know how to respond?

For most people, the prospect of speaking up when we witness people behaving badly is frightening. Even if we want to intervene, we may not know what to say or do in these situations. Nobody wants to make a bad situation worse.

This uncertainty is a problem for victims of harassment, abuse and violence. When people most need allies, they are frequently surrounded by people too scared or uncertain to speak up.

Witnesses to anti-social behaviour rarely know how to intervene in a way that is supportive, effective and safe. People may be keen to step in, but their uncertainty prevents them from taking action.

When should a bystander intervene?

The first question for any concerned individual is whether their concerns are legitimate. Of course, there is no way to be 100% certain that you haven’t misconstrued an innocent situation. But it is usually better to say something when you see something that doesn’t feel right.

By learning how to respond, people can feel more confident about speaking up at the first sign of trouble.

How can bystanders intervene safely?

The first step is to assess the potential risks. Bystanders should be encouraged to seek support and to try to resolve issues as a group, rather than taking personal risks.

Bystanders do not always need to directly challenge bad behaviour or abuse; it may be enough to disrupt the activity by talking to the perpetrator or the victim and creating a distraction. In some cases, the presence of others can be enough to stall the problematic behaviour.

Training to support bystanders

Sadly, it’s inevitable that we will all be bystanders at some point in our lives. These moments may be fleeting and frightening – so it’s easy to forgive ourselves for doing nothing at all.

Training can help break the cycle of silence.

By teaching people how to recognise abuse, anti-social behaviour and potential harassment, organisations can create a culture of resistance to aggression and abuse, and normalise intervention.

Bystander intervention training from Marshalls

Our Bystander Intervention e-learning course is developed in partnership with the University of Coventry and University of Warwick. It brings clarity to the question of when people should intervene, and lays out practical steps for taking action.

The Bystander Intervention elearning course is delivered on the Marshall LMS so you can easily track adoption and completion rates. You can either choose this course as an off-the-shelf package, or we can adapt the content to suit your brand and your requirements.


To learn more about our Bystander Intervention course, please click here. Alternatively, if you would like to get in touch for more information about this course or our other modules, please contact us here.



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