Ways to Help Someone and Be an Active Bystander

Preventing violence and supporting people in our community who have experienced harm is everyone's responsibility.

Learn how to be a prosocial, active bystander and respond compassionately when someone you know tells you about their experience of SVSH.

Helping Someone Else

When someone you know or care about experiences a form of sexual violence or sexual harassment, you may experience a range of feelings, including anxiety about how best to help them. The PATH to Care Center has downloadable resources on their Support Someone webpage to help you respond compassionately when someone discloses dating/intimate partner violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking. The following additional suggestions may help you support someone.

Ways to Respond

  • Offer unconditional support and compassion. Tell the survivor that you believe them.

  • Don't tell the survivor what to do. Experiencing violence may make a person feel as if they have lost some agency over what happens next, and it is important not to compound this by adding pressure to do things they do not want to do or is not yet ready to do. There is no "right" way to cope with trauma. 

  • Offer resources and information without pressure or judgment about their decisions. You may offer to help them contact confidential resources. Don't press for details. Allow the survivor to share what they want, when they want. Avoid "why?" questions. You might be attempting to better understand or get control over the situation, but "why?" questions may be interpreted as blaming or skeptical. The answers won't change what's happened.

    • Tip: You can ask the survivor if they would like to speak with a confidential advocate at the PATH to Care Center. If they would like, you may call the 24/7 urgent support Care Line at 510-643-2005 together.
  • Challenge statements of self-blame. The responsibility for the assault lies with the person who caused the harm, regardless of the survivor's actions leading up to, during, or after the incident.

  • If the survivor wants to seek medical attention or report the assault, you can offer to accompany them wherever they need to go (e.g., hospital, police station, campus security, etc.).

  • Be patient.

  • Ask how you can help.

Responding If You Are a Responsible Employee

If someone approaches you to discuss an incident of SVSH, you can respond with care and compassion. You should tell the person about your obligations, and can offer them the option of connecting with a confidential resource such as the PATH to Care Center. 

It is common for Responsible Employees to be unsure of what to say. Here are some tips: 

  • Check in with the person to know if they are comfortable having this conversation where you are, or if they would like to find a quieter or more private space.
  • Tell the person what kinds of information you are obligated to report to the University, and what happens when the University receives that information.
  • Express care and concern for the person's safety and well-being. Affirm that they deserve support, and offer the option of connecting with resources.
  • Inform the person of confidential resources available to them. You can call the 24/7 Care Line for urgent confidential support directly, and connect the person to an advocate on the phone. Due to your Responsible Employee obligations, offer to leave the space to allow the person to speak with the advocate confidentially. 
  • Do not express doubt or put blame on the person for what happened.
  • Do not pressure them to take actions, or tell them what they "should" do. 
  • Do not investigate the incident, press for more information, or take actions to resolve the matter yourself.

More information for Responsible Employees can be found on our Responsible Employee page.

Bystander Intervention

You can become part of the solution in making the Berkeley community safer and more inclusive for everyone. Bystander intervention is a great tool and has the power to transform our campus.

What is Bystander Intervention?

Have you ever been in a situation where something just did not feel right, but you were unsure how to respond? Many incidents of violence and harm occur in the presence of bystanders - people who witness an incident but are not directly involved. 

You can take action to prevent violence. Bystander intervention is the interruption of potential harm or violence by someone who witnesses the incident. It is also referred to as being an active bystander - someone who notices the potential for harm to occur and takes action to interrupt the situation and prevent harm.

Breaking It Down

Bystander intervention can also be thought of as a leadership and helping behavior. As a leader or member of a student organization, you are in a great position to role model helping behavior in order to make our campus safer for everyone. 

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Recognize a situation as potentially harmful

2. Decide to act

3. Intervene effectively and safely; follow up as appropriate

Strategies for Taking Action as a Bystander

Sometimes in the moment, it can be hard to know exactly how to respond. The CARE Model is an easy-to-remember acronym that outlines four strategies for taking action when harm or violence could occur.

CARE Model





You can use multiple strategies for a given situation depending on your comfort level and personal style. It is important to keep your own safety in mind any time you are choosing to be an active bystander.

Bears That Care is a program on campus that offers workshops on bystander intervention facilitated by peer educators. 

Visit sa.berkeley.edu/btc to learn more and request a workshop.

Take Care of Yourself

Witnessing or hearing about violence can be an upsetting experience. Here are some things to keep in mind when you're supporting a survivor.

  • Realize that your feelings are valid. Practice self-compassion.

  • Pay attention to your own needs - this could mean setting boundaries, taking extra time for activities you enjoy, etc.

  • If needed, seek outside resources to help you get through this difficult time: you could talk to a counselor, your community, a close friend, or hotline - just make sure that you respect the survivor's privacy.

  • The PATH to Care Center on-campus can be a resource for you if you are looking for consulation or help while supporting someone who has  experienced violence. Contact their office at 510-642-1988 to make an appointment.