Every time you are witness to something that concerns you, you have the opportunity to be an ethical bystander. Being an ethical bystander is not about being a hero. Ethical bystanders notice something they think is dangerous, inappropriate or unjust and decide they can do something about it.

When something doesn’t feel right, ask yourself: ‘How might the situation affect the people who are involved? What is the possible outcome? Could the situation get worse if you don’t do anything?” If yes, then evaluate the best way to respond.

Check out some real life scenario’s by the No More Campaign for more idea about when and how to intervene. 

Remember that sexual harassment can look different in different situations- sexual harassment can include unwanted physical touching, ‘jokes’ of a sexual nature, whistling and catcalling, or comments about someone’s appearance.

We know that behaviours, words and actions that normalise, minimise or condone violence are often at the root of bigger issues such as sexual violence. Sexist jokes, comments about a person’s appearance, whistling and catcalling, and derogatory comments about someone’s ability based on gender or racial slurs, all need to be challenged in order for us to promote safety and respect.

Think about intervening when:

  • A mate says something unkind, like calling someone a “slut”
  • You see someone who is visibly upset
  • You hear something that makes you think there is violence or aggression (remember to be safe and delegating can be the most effective and safest option)
  • You witness someone saying sexually explicit comments to or about someone else
  • You see someone chatting up someone else who is too drunk to consent

Prevention requires us all to challenge sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic and transphobic comments! A simple “that’s not cool” response to a sexist ‘joke’ can make a big impact! Remove the link to a new page.

Tip: Follow your instincts, if something doesn’t feel right, and it’s safe to do so, say something.

“The standard that we walk past is the standard we accept” - Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison and others.

As this video shows, you might be the difference between a sexual assault occurring or being averted – Please note this video contains scenes of sexual assault that may be challenging or triggering for some viewers.

Check out the Random Acts of Respect column in UQU’s student magazine Semper Floreat, to read UQ students’ stories of being ethical bystanders!

A note on identity

Who we are, how other people see us, and social systems, mean that we all experience privilege and discrimination differently. Our gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, ability, age and other identities, all intersect with social systems (such as sexism, homophobia, racism etc.) to give us more or less power in certain contexts. Consider your privilege and remember, in some situations, you have more power to intervene than others.