NJ Division on Civil Rights
Adapted and reprinted with permission from Right to Be, https://righttobe.org/guides/bystander-intervention-training.
1. INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL BIAS INTERVENTION: In “The Prejudice Habit-Breaking Intervention” (https://bit.ly/Prejudice_Intervention), psychologists William T.L. Cox and Patricia G. Devine highlight research-based strategies for addressing bias, including:
- Be an Ally: Research shows that interventions are received more positively when they come from members of the nontargeted social group than from members of the group targeted by bias. Target group members are often viewed as overly sensitive, while nontargeted group members are seen as more credible, maybe because they are perceived to not have a vested interest in the outcome. This speaks to the importance of being an ally.
- Be Calm and Fair: The style of intervention is important. Several studies have shown that hostile or threatening confrontations may sometimes reduce bias in the moment, but may cause the confronted person to become agitated and act out in angry ways later. Interventions that are instead calm and appeal to principles of fairness tend to lessen negative reactions on the part of those being challenged.
- Be Clear and Specific: Feedback that is clear and tied to specific evidence of bias is more effective than general or ambiguous comments. Specific, evidence-based interventions can cause others to regulate their behavior to reduce bias in the future.
2. THE 5 Ds OF BYSTANDER INTERVENTION: The organization, Right to Be (https://righttobe.org), promotes five methods for intervening in harassment:
• Distract – De-escalate the situation by interrupting it indirectly.
• Delegate – Get help from someone else.
• Document – Record the incident.
• Delay – Check in with the person who was harassed later.
• Direct – If safe, confront the aggressor more directly.
These methods are useful for intervening when expressions of bias, discrimination, or hate occur in more public settings. See the chart on the following page for a more detailed overview of these methods.
Take an indirect approach to
de-escalate the situation.
Start a conversation with the target or find another way to draw attention away from the negative behavior. Ask them for directions or the time, or drop something.
“Excuse me, do you know what the next stop is?”
“Hey Elena, can you help me with something over here?”
Get help from someone else.
Find someone in a position of authority –like a bus driver, light attendant, security guard, teacher, or store manager—and ask them for help.
Also, check in with the person being harassed. You can ask them if they want you to call the police.
“Excuse me! This person is being harassed. Can you help?”
Report the incident to a supervisor.
It can be helpful for the target to have a video of the
incident. Laws about recording in public vary, so check local laws first. Only document if it’s safe.
Tips for documenting public harassment:
- Keep a safe distance.
- Film street signs or other landmarks that help identify the location.
- Say the day and time.
ALWAYS ask the target what they want to do with the footage. NEVER post it online or use it without their permission. Keep your attention on the person being harassed – make sure anything you do is focused on supporting them.
“Is anyone helping the person being harassed?” If not, use one of the other 4 Ds to help them.
Keep track of comments or behaviors to report in the future.
After the incident is over, check in with the person who was harassed.
Ask: “Can I sit with you? Can I accompany you somewhere? What do you need?”
“Are you okay?”
“I saw and heard what happened and that was not okay.”
If safe, confront the aggressor more directly.
Assess your safety first. Then speak up about the harassment. Be firm and clear.
Also, talk to the target about what’s going on. Ask: “Are you okay? Should I get help? Should we get out of here?”
“That’s inappropriate. Leave them alone.”
“What do you mean by that?”