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Digital Bystander Intervention

What is it?

Bystander intervention is when a witness to digital sexual violence, online abuse, or virtual harassment prevents it from continuing and/or helps the victim.

This is accomplished by noticing digital sexual violence, stepping in during an incident, and speaking out against ideas and behaviors that perpetuate rape culture.

The Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect is a research phenomenon that explains why people who witness a dangerous act are unlikely to step in.

Diffusion of Responsibility

"Somebody else will step in."
Research shows that when multiple people witness a potentially dangerous situation, most assume someone else will intervene. This is not true.

Pluralistic Ignorance

"Nobody else thinks this is a problem."
If no one has stepped in, one might assume that the situation must not be problematic. As a result, many people in a group may silently see something “off”, but outwardly do nothing. This is very dangerous.


"Maybe I don’t know the whole situation."
It’s not always immediately clear whether something problematic is happening. Given what’s at stake, it’s important to trust your instincts, and use what you know to evaluate the situation before you decide against intervention.


"I don’t want to embarrass myself."
Intervention does require courage, so the fear of embarrassment is legitimate. However, it is important to weigh the consequences of a potentially embarrassing moment with the consequences of experiencing sexual violence or other harmful situations.

Fear of Getting Hurt

"I don’t want to put myself at risk."
Your personal safety is important to consider as you decide how to intervene. Fortunately, there are many ways to intervene that prioritize your personal safety, while still helping to diffuse or disrupt a dangerous situation.



With the 5 R’s you’ll be empowered with tools to be an active digital bystander while maintaining your safety.

5 R’s of Digital Bystander Intervention


Respond directly to the parties involved, if it is safe to do so. Call out negative behavior publicly, tell the perpetrator(s) to stop directly, or ask the victim if they are okay. Prioritize assisting the victim over debating the perpetrator.


Report digital sexual violence to the social media company, website, browser, or platform. If it is within a community, you can report it to a moderator. Alternatively, you can report it to administrators at your K12 school, college, or company. Lastly, you can report to the authorities.


Record what is happening by taking screenshots, videos, or writing it down. This is particularly important in situations that will involve the authorities, children, and/or a pattern of offenses. Make sure you do this in a way that is safe and in line with the law.



Rebuke digital sexual violence and challenge rape culture by calling it out and explaining why it is harmful. Keep in mind, reposting can amplify the harm by increasing visibility and engagement. It can also make you a target. Make sure you do so safely. For example, referencing the content in a separate post.



Reach out to the victim and offer resources or provide support. You can offer to provide information about how to get digital SV removed, offer to help them go to the authorities, or offer to help them make a report to the platform/moderators.

Are you interested in learning more?

 Download our digital bystander intervention training!

Check Out Our Impact Report!

Since our start in 2021, the Sexual Violence Prevention Association (SVPA) has been dedicated to preventing sexual violence systemically. Our advocacy, resources, and institutional actions have had broad impact across the country. Check out our impact report to learn more!