Bystander approaches: responding to and preventing men's sexual violence against women

Violence against women Violence prevention Australia

Bystander action is often promoted as an effective way of engaging non-violent men in challenging violence against women in their peer groups and communities. This paper explains the origins and rationale for bystander interventions, the characteristics of successful bystander programs in Australia and overseas, and the challenges for implementation and evaluation. While there are some unresolved challenges and issues in their implementation, bystander approaches represent a promising complementary approach to progressing sexual violence prevention.

Key messages:

  • Bystander approaches seek to build shared individual and community responsibility for responding to and preventing sexual violence by encouraging people not directly involved in violence as a victim or perpetrator to take action. As such, they potentially have a key role to play in challenging cultures of violence and gender inequality.
  • Many Australian violence education and prevention programs already include some bystander elements, such as how to care for a friend who has experienced violence, or what to do when witnessing or becoming aware of an incident of violence against women.
  • Individuals are most likely to take positive action to respond to or prevent violence when they feel supported to do so by their peers, communities, and organisations (such as schools and workplaces), when they feel confident in their ability to take action, and when they perceive that their action will make a positive difference.
  • Individual bystander action requires noticing the situation; interpreting the event as requiring intervention; assuming responsibility; deciding how to help; and confidence in the capacity to help (Darley & Latane, 1968).
Publication Details
ACSSA Issues No.17/2014