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Upstander Intervention

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Anyone in the community who sees or hears about a behavior that could lead to something high risk or harmful. Every bystander faces the same choice: “Do I get involved and try to make things better? Or do I ignore the situation?”

Preventing the Bystander Effect

The bystander effect is a phenomenon in which the increased presence of witnesses or "bystanders" during a crisis actually decreases the likelihood that someone will intervene. This is attributed to the assumption by most individuals that someone else will respond, thus justifying their hesitance or refusal to take action.

The key to bystander intervention is the recognition and acceptance that you might be the ONLY one that will act and you should take measures to intervene in the interests of helping someone else, while assessing and taking precautions to protect your own safety and well-being. There are many different ways to safely respond, including the 3 D’s of intervention:

  • Direct: Check in
    • Examples of helpful questions - Are you okay? How are you doing? What do you need? Would you like to go?
    • Provide options, a listening ear, and make sure that they get home safely.
  • Delegate: Tell another person who can help you intervene (friend, police, someone with authority, etc.).
  • Distract: Interrupt the situation or redirect individuals that may be at risk.


Anyone who makes the choice to intervene to try to make things better. In the prevention of sexual and relationship violence, Upstanders play a critical role. They are often the largest group of people involved - outnumbering both the perpetrators and the victims. Upstanders can have a range of involvement in assaults. A person or persons may be aware that a specific assault is happening or will happen, they may see an assault or potential assault in progress, or they may have knowledge that an assault has already occurred. Regardless of how close to the incident they are, Upstanders have the power stop assaults and to get help for people who have been victimized.

We want to promote a culture of community accountability at Stanford where bystanders become Upstanders that are actively engaged in the prevention of violence, realizing that we are all responsible for each other in addition to ourselves.

As a Upstander, what can I do? 

As a Stanford community member and a global citizen, we invite you to reframe the critical role of the Upstander as an individual that both intervenes in daily acts of harm (i.e. street harassment, bullying, sexist jokes) and periodic high-risk situations (i.e. situations that may lead to physical violence, sexual assault, relationship violence). When confronted with daily acts of harm, the Upstander disrupts these harms by tuning in to self and others and intervening through the framework of privilege and oppression. Inhigh risk situations where the harm is both immediate and threatens safety, the Upstander acts using immediate methods of disruption that prioritize safety and time sensitivity.  

To support you in doing this, we invite you to live the Upstander life through the LIFE model, which conceptualizes 4 non-sequential aspects of intervention:

L (ead): Tuning into who we are, what we feel, and the environment to take action

I (dentity): Tuning into the self and others to understand its impact

F (eelings): Tuning into the self to understand the what is needed

E (evaluate): Tuning into the environment to assess safety and risk

In order to intervene in a sustainable and intentional manner, we must ask ourselves the question:

“How do we foster a culture of upstanding to reduce all harms in a campus microsystem that has the capacity to passively reflect or actively disrupt our societal system of oppression?”. We invite you to participate in this training to create your answer to this question.

How do I request a Upstander training?

We invite you to learn practical intervention skills that utilize this LIFE model - a systems-based approach to disrupt both daily and systemic violence - by filling out our training request form.

Have any further questions?

Contact the Upstander Education Initiative at