You can take action if you witness someone you know, your friend or colleague, classmate, or your tutee or student facing bullying, harassment or sexual violence. A witness who takes action instead of merely watching is called an active bystander.

An active bystander chooses to act and challenge the harmful behaviour in order to disrupt a potentially dangerous situation or keep it from escalating. They help prevent as well as deal with the potential outcome.

There are several ways an active bystander can help someone, and it does not necessarily have to be direct intervention in all cases. If a situation can be dangerous or become worse by directly intervening, please avoid direct confrontation.

Following are the four types of intervening actions you can take (also called the 4 D's of being an active bystander):

1) Direct Action - As a bystander, you can directly intervene when you see someone in a harmful situation. For example, in a situation of a person being harassed or catcalled by someone or group of people, you could directly intervene and ask to leave the person alone. 

Note: You should only directly challenge a 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. 

 2) Distraction - This is 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, taking them out of that situation and thus, de-escalating it.

3) 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, if the harassment is occurring at a SU bar, the Students’ Union workers will remove perpetrators from their events if notified of harmful behaviour. 

4) 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. If you know the perpetrators and are comfortable doing so, you could also talk to them about the unacceptability of their behaviour at a later time. 

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. 

Talk 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. For students, 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.

For staff, you can get in touch with Dignity advisors who provide confidential and non-judgmental support to help you clarify your thoughts and take steps for resolution, including guiding you to formal procedures should those be needed. 
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...
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 advisor for any bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct you have witnessed. 

For detailed information and training to become an active bystander, you can approach the following routes:

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

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


There are two ways you can tell us what happened