Playlist teacher guide - Being an active bystander

Playlist information

Playlist summary

This playlist explores situations where bystanders could intervene and unpacks some of the factors that influence whether we should intervene or not.

Playlist purpose

The content of this playlist supports students to:

  • Understand the reasons why bystanders may or may not intervene when they witness disrespectful or abusive behaviour.
  • Challenge disrespectful behaviour in a safe way that does not escalate the situation.

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Learning objectives

  • Know how and when to safely support and help someone who may be experiencing violence or abuse.
  • Understand that not acting to challenge or prevent disrespectful or violent behaviour can be seen as supporting this behaviour.
  • Understand the role that peer influence, support and safety can play on our willingness to intervene in situations where disrespectful behaviours are occurring.
  • Propose practical and ethical ways to intervene in situations where disrespectful or violent behaviours are occurring.

Key messages

  • Bystanders can play a powerful role in challenging and preventing disrespectful behaviour.
  • If it’s safe to do so, bystanders can play a key role in helping victims of violence to feel and be safe.
  • Preventing violence is everybody’s responsibility, but it needs to be done safely.
  • Highlighting and challenging disrespectful language and behaviours can have positive benefits for society.

Year level(s) appropriate for

Year 10, Year 11, Year 12

Australian curriculum links

Plan, rehearse and evaluate options (including CPR and first aid) for managing situations where their own or others’ health, safety and wellbeing may be at short or long-term risk.

Propose, practise and evaluate responses in situations where external influences may impact on their ability to make healthy and safe choices.

Media items

Being an active bystander

Type: Page.

Duration: 3 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: When you witness a person in a situation where their rights and freedoms are being compromised, you are a bystander to a line move. Moving the line breaks the rules of the Field Model and can be disrespectful, even abusive.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Would you feel confident to be an active bystander if you saw someone harassing another person in a public place? Answers
    1. a.Yes, absolutely
    2. b.Yes, but only if I was with a group of friends who’d back me up
    3. c.Maybe, it would depend whether the other person was bigger than me
    4. d.Probably not, it’s too risky because you don’t know how they might react
    Discussion points:

    The level of confidence people have in their own capacity to take action has a big impact on whether they will step in to intervene or challenge disrespectful or abusive behaviour. The level of peer support they expect to receive if they were to take action is also a key factor in deciding to step in. Remember you don’t have to step in but if it is safe to do so it can help someone out of a potentially harmful situation.

    Remind students of the three key steps in the Stepping in video (part of The Field Model playlist) provide the way to step in safely:

    • Step 1: Check in
    • Step 2: Disrupt
    • Step 3: Recruit

    By following these steps you can make sure that if you do decide to step in, you are not going to escalate a situation and potentially put your safety or anyone else’s in danger.

The Bystanders—The Action Movie

Type: Video.

Duration: 5 minutes.

Source: ItsnotOKcampaign. ()

Summary: If you see someone being targeted with disrespectful behaviour, you can work together with others to safely intervene and prevent sexual violence.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. If you were at a party and witnessed this happening, would you step in? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    There are good reasons why some people would choose not to step in when they witness a line move. There are also good reasons why someone would choose to step in if they see a line move. The decision is always a personal one that you need to weigh up yourself. To discuss this further, ask the following questions:

    • If a line move is about to happen, what things would you need to consider when deciding whether to step in?
    • If the line move is in progress, what could you do to stop it from escalating?
    • If the line move is finished, what could you do to prevent it from happening again in future?

    In the video, Joe’s mate tries to step in early when they were messaging about the party.

    • Do you think this was a good tactic to try to prevent the line move from occurring in the first place? Why? Why not?

    In the end, bystanders stepped in and prevented any further harm to Jane.

    • Have you been at a party or out in public where you have witnessed bystanders act in similar situations?
    • What strategies did they use to intervene?
    • How did they make sure they were able to step in safely?

How to step in: being an active bystander

Type: Page.

Duration: 4 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: Sometimes behaviour might not seem obviously wrong, but it also might not seem quite right—creepy or pushy or even just overly-friendly. Trust your instinct and try and get more information.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Do you think the Check in, Disrupt, Recruit process is a simple way to think about stepping in? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    The 3 step process for stepping in gives you a plan of how to intervene safely.

    Step 1 is a great way to make sure your instincts about a situation are spot on – either check in with the person who the line is being moved on or check in with other bystanders and see what their take is of the situation.

    If you don’t want to challenge the line mover directly then using tactics to disturb and distract can help to disrupt (Step 2) the situation and can be a less confrontational way of stepping in.

    If you don’t feel like you can step in alone then using Step 3 to recruit the help of other bystanders can create safety in numbers and mean that you are able to present a group response that shows the perpetrator that what they are doing is not acceptable.

    To explore stepping in further, discuss the following questions:

    • What strategies have you used, or witnessed being used effectively to step in when a line has been/is being moved
    • What strategies have you witnessed or used yourself that didn’t work so great when trying to step in?

Scenario: that’s not funny!

Type: Page.

Duration: 3 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: Being an active bystander can mean calling out disrespectful behaviour, even after the fact. It can signal to others that an easy joke should never be more important than considering the other person’s feelings.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Do you think Anya was right to challenge Tom about the appropriateness of the comedian’s joke? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    Discussion points:

    The behaviour we accept, the jokes we laugh at and the comments that we allow all create the culture in which we exist. If we want to change the way people behave towards each other and encourage people to be respectful of everyone, then we need to speak up and challenge behaviour that is disrespectful. By challenging disrespect within our own peer groups (both online and offline) we can start to influence the culture and social norms that are acceptable within our communities.

    By publicly challenging disrespectful attitudes that people demonstrate through racist or sexist comments or jokes, lude comments about women or insulting descriptions of other people or groups we can start to change the way people think about respect and disrespect in our community. Little changes over time can create bigger shifts in attitudes.

Respect women: call it out-active bystander

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: Respect Victoria. ()

Summary: When might creepy behaviour turn into harassment or violence? Any form of disrespectful behaviour should be challenged, particularly if it’s clear that the target is uncomfortable.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Do you think this action would be enough to stop the staring man doing it again? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Small actions that are not confrontational but send a clear message about behaviour being inappropriate can be very effective to tackle disrespect. Even though it is not illegal to look at someone, it is certainly not appropriate. It was obvious his behaviour was making the woman feel very uncomfortable. There is also the chance that if the man’s behaviour goes unchallenged by bystanders that it may reinforce in his mind that he is “doing nothing wrong”. The simple action of the bystander in highlighting that he thought his behaviour was inappropriate is enough to stop him in this situation and will also make him think twice next time.

    Discuss with students:

    • What other strategies could you use in that situation to step in without directly confronting the “staring man”?

More Than A Spectator

Type: Video.

Duration: 1 minute.

Source: Our Watch. ()

Summary: Violence against women is preventable. We need to call out sexism, harassment, disrespect and condoning of violence against women. By directly naming inappropriate behaviour as the disrespectful behaviour it is, we can challenge the norms to disregard disrespect.

Survey questions:

  1. Question number 1. Do you think everybody has the capacity to be more than a spectator and can stand up to disrespectful attitudes towards women? Answers
    1. a.Yes
    2. b.No
    3. c.Maybe
    Discussion points:

    Violence against women is preventable. We need to call out sexism, harassment, disrespect and condoning of violence against women. By directly naming inappropriate behaviour as the disrespectful behaviour it is, we can challenge the norms to disregard disrespect.

    Share these examples with students and ask them to develop role plays of their own to practice calling out disrespect:

    • When someone tells that ‘joke’ about a woman, let them know it's not funny…"It's just disrespectful.”
    • When a mate gives a woman the kind of attention she doesn’t want, remind him it doesn't matter what's meant by it…“It's just disrespectful.”
    • When you hear sexist and demeaning stereotypes, ask “Why does it matter if they’re a man or woman…“It's just disrespectful.”
    • When you question that sexist joke, put-down or comment you’re saying, ‘Enough’. You’re saying ‘No more’ to violence and disrespect against women.
    • When someone shares something demeaning about women, let them know you don't want to see or hear it…“It's just disrespectful.”

    Often people know what they’ve said is wrong. Speaking up to them doesn’t have to be a challenge. Make it a conversation. Because staying silent or joining in by laughing at their joke sends a message to them that their behaviour is ok.

Being an active bystander wrap-up

Type: Page.

Duration: 2 minutes.

Source: The Good Society.

Summary: A quick wrap-up of the Being an active bystander playlist.

Activities and extras

The conversations generated through engaging with this playlist could be built upon and reinforced using scenarios and group activities where students explore how the outcomes may be different if bystanders stepped in when they witnessed disrespectful behaviour.

Further ideas for exploring bystander action can be found on the Bystander Revolution Youtube channel.