About Bystander Intervention Work

Having started doing awareness work around hate crime in 2013, we noted the sharp rise in reported hate crimes following the result of the EU Referendum in June 2016. All the research suggests that most people affected by hate crimes and incidents will not report what happens meaning that we never get to see the scale of the problem. However, out of sight, people are hurt and at times devastated by these incidents. We wanted to find another way to address this.

When we saw the videos of incidents emerging on social media, we felt the bystanders (or witnesses), that were often present could be doing something – at the very least reporting the incidents.

That was the beginning of what led to the creation of Stand by Me during 2017, being piloted in Nottingham, United Kingdom in 2018 (with the support of the Google Innovation Fund) and national rollout during 2020/2022 (again with the support of Google.org).

What Is A Bystander?

A bystander is a person who, although present at some event, does not take part in it; an observer or spectator.

#NBAD Launch Event

About International Bystander Awareness Day

On March 13th 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28 year-old bar manager was stabbed, raped and killed on her way back from work in the early hours of the morning in Queens, New York just yards away from her apartment. Newspaper reports later suggested that up to 38 people saw or heard the incident, which took place over half an hour and failed to call the police for help. One man, viewing the murder from his third-floor apartment window, stated later that he rushed to turned up his radio so he wouldn’t hear the woman’s screams. Others thought it was a lovers’ quarrel, were afraid or too tired.

A documentary (The Witness available on Amazon Prime) made by her brother Bill identified some contradictions in the original accounts, some of which were politically motivated. US Researchers John M. Darley and Bibb Latané became interested and conducted the research that led to the terms ‘bystander’ and ‘bystander effect’.

This national day gave us an opportunity to:

  • Raise awareness of the positive role that bystanders can play
  • Share the different ways that people can help others
  • Promote the benefits and importance of supporting others

Awareness of the day increased over the years and in 2021 we had an international input from our good friend Patrice O’Neal founding member of the Not In Our Town Movement (add link to their website and to the NBAD you tube event) and Executive Producer at PBS America.

In January 2023, our Creative Director was attending the in-person International Visitors Leadership Program, A Global Moment in Time: Peace and Justice, in three US cities, she had an opportunity to reach a global audience and was supported by the US Department of State and their program partners to launch International Bystander Awareness Day in Florida.

Applications And Focus

Communities Inc have developed programs utilising bystander interventions to tackle, hate, prejudice and discrimination through Stand by Me and encouraging men to be better allies to women through Stand by Her to address misogyny.

Communities Inc have developed programs utilising bystander interventions to tackle, hate, prejudice and discrimination through Stand by Me and encouraging men to be better allies to women through Stand by Her to address misogyny.

However, bystander interventions can be applied to any issue where the intervention of others can make a positive difference. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Knife and gun crime
  • Radicalisation to extremist ideologies
  • Excess use of police force (stop and search)
  • Human trafficking
  • Domestic violence
  • Child sexual abuse
  • Sexual harassment

Essentially there is a role that bystanders can play whenever someone needs help.

Interventions In Different Contexts

We encourage people to think about what they can do that can make a difference, rather than whether they should do anything or not.

There is always something you can do, some people may feel confident to directly intervene, others may just want to pay attention from a distance and then report the incident.

It can be useful to think what you would want others to do if this incident was happening to someone you care about.

Ideas For Action

Organise a discussion group to explore:

What issues you could look at engaging bystanders to be more active

What help people facing these issues may need

What some barriers to intervening might be

Organise a viewing of The Witness as a local cinema, hall or theatre with some refreshments. You could even hold a discussion following the film

Attend bystander intervention training or even get training in for your staff, volunteers and stakeholders

Hold a breakfast meeting with key stakeholders and get some actors to ‘play out a scenario’ where someone is being harassed, bullied or picked on. See if anyone notices and use it as a basis for discussion as to why people don’t intervene and what people could have done.

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International Bystander Awareness Day

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Contact Us

If you want any further information please do not hesitate to get in touch

shamsher@communitiesinc.org.uk