Bystander Intervention: What is It and Why it is Necessary to Prevent Sexual  Violence

If you’re a college student was at a party and saw someone making unwanted sexual advances toward another student who was intoxicated, would he intervene?  What about in response to rape joke or a sexually explicit photo or video of a classmate posted on social media?  For the first time, sexual violence prevention strategies including “bystander intervention” are being discussed and taught at universities and colleges in response to recent government scrutiny about  how universities are handling reports of sexual assaults on campuses.

So, what is bystander intervention?  Simply put, it’s when someone interrupts a potentially harmful situation. It also includes stopping actions or comments that promote sexual violence.  As Tracy Cox, spokeswoman​ for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center,​ stated  “It is common for people to witness situations where someone makes an inappropriate sexual comment or innuendo, tells a rape joke, or touches someone in a sexual manner. Bystanders who witness these behaviors can intervene in a way that will help create a safer environment.”

For college kids, this could mean making sure that the drunken student at the party gets  home safely or when they  hear  a rape joke  or  a victim shaming comment, telling  the group why it’s wrong. Even in social media situations, a “virtual” bystander can intervene by defending a someone who is being sexually exploited or humiliated online.

While all of this may sound heroic, many young people may fear for their own safety, struggle with peer pressure​ or worry about being embarrassed.  While conversations about sexual violence can be uncomfortable for parents, some useful information on this topic can be found at

The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt exclusively represents victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault. We stand ready to help you with your legal needs. If you were sexually assaulted or sexually abused, our law firm can help explain your legal remedies.  For almost twenty years, we have represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, including colleges and universities, religious organizations, such as the Catholic church, Baptist church, Greek Orthodox church, Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian church among others. We have also represented victims of sexual abuse in schools,  youth sports organizations,  youth camps, daycares, scouting and the like. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website : You can also become a fan of our firm  on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We post articles and other information helpful to survivors, including current media on abuse cases nationwide, wellness,  self-care and other  mental health news.

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