Bystander Intervention Techniques - VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office
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VHA Assault and Harassment Prevention Office


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Bystander Intervention Techniques

Anyone can experience harassment. Sexual harassment is unsolicited verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature that is threatening. Bystander intervention strategies help you to recognize and respond safely to a situation that is potentially hostile or to a behavior that may be harassing so that the situation does not get worse. Any individual who has been subjected to or witnessed unwelcome conduct is encouraged to use these strategies to safely intervene or report unwelcome and offensive conduct.

Click the following link to take a free, online, bystander intervention training module, which requires no registration. The training takes about 30 minutes to complete and can be accessed from a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Intervention Strategy: The “Ds”


Address the harasser with a short statement or question to point out threatening or inappropriate behavior in a safe, respectful manner.
  1. Speak Up
    • “Hey, that joke was demeaning to women and it wasn’t funny. We don’t do that kind of thing here.”
    • “Hey, it isn’t funny to make jokes about anyone, no matter who they are. We want all Veterans to feel welcome at VA.”
  2. Check in with the person being harassed to see if they are okay and if you can assist them.


Use a subtle and creative way to draw away or divert attention. Directly engage the person being harassed without getting involved with the harasser or referring to the harassment. Instead, talk about something completely unrelated.
  1. Engage the individual being harassed by
    • Pretending you know them
    • Getting in the the way of, or between, the harasser and the person who is being harassed
  2. Check in with the person being harassed to see if they are okay and if you can assist them.


Get assistance from a third party
  1. Use teamwork to distract and delegate
    • Get another person on board to interrupt the harassment long enough for you to find help
  2. Find or call a VA employee or police officer and ask them to intervene
    • Offer to give a report about the incident to the VA employee or police


Write down the details of the incident
  1. Who (Who was harassed or assaulted? Who was the offender? Were there others present? Were police involved?)
  2. What happened (What are the specifics of the incident?)
  3. Where (What is the location of the incident, i.e. in the atrium, women’s restroom, etc.?)
  4. When (What is the time and date of the incident?)