Be an active bystander

An active bystander is someone who not only witnesses unacceptable behaviour, but who chooses to act and challenge that behaviour in order to disrupt a potentially problematic situation or keep it from escalating. A bystander can prevent as well as deal with the potential outcome.

If you are a student, you could participate in the Active Bystander program delivered by the UCL Student Union. 

If you are a staff member, consider participating in the 'Where do you draw the Line?' workshops. 

You should only challenge behaviour if you feel safe to do so. If it is an emergency call 999 (or 112 from a mobile). If there is no immediate danger you can report it. 

What are the four D’s of being an active bystander?

Direct Action - As a bystander, you can directly intervene when you see a situation of street harassment by confronting the situation head on. For example, you can ask the harasser to stop bothering the person they are targeting. 

Distraction - As a bystander can take an indirect approach to intervening. For example, if you notice someone being harassed, you can approach them to ask for directions, greet them or check a meeting time or location, thus de-escalating that situation.

Delegation -This is when you seek outside assistance to intervene in the situation. For example, a bystander can seek help or assistance from the police, a public transport worker or another party such as a line manager, personal tutor, HR or Students Unions. For example, the Students’ Union UCL will remove perpetrators from their events. 

Delay – This is when you wait for the situation to pass and you check in with the person who was targeted to make sure they are okay. Even if you were unable to intervene at the time, checking in later makes a difference to the person who was harassed. 
Remember: The delay tactic is an important step in when witnessing any unacceptable behaviour, and is important to do to ensure the person targeted understands the support options available to them. 


If you see an incident occur and you think it is problematic, it is important that you are able to talk about it.

Talk to a friend. Talking things through with someone you trust can sometimes help. The Student Union Advice Service is a free, confidential, impartial service where an advisor can talk through the procedure, including how to complain, explain what options are open to you, and support you through the process.

If you feel safe to do so, you can address the person being targeted or the problematic behavior directly.

Things you can say to the person being targeted:

  • Can I help?
  • Can I call someone for you?
  • Can I walk you home?
  • Is everything OK?
  • Should I call the police?
  • Are you alright?
  • Things you can say to the person behaving problematically:
  • What you said earlier really bothered me...
  • I don’t like what you just did.
  • I wonder if you realise how that comes across.
  • How would you feel if someone did that to your sister or brother?
You should only challenge behaviour if you feel safe to do so. If you do not and it is an emergency call 999 (or 112 from a mobile).  If there is no immediate danger you can report it.


Use the Report section of this platform to report bullying, harassment, or sexual misconduct you have experienced. Contact a Dignity at Work Advisor for any bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct you have witnessed.

Get Support

Visit the support pages for further information on accessing support at UCL or external support agencies.


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