Be an active bystander

Standing up to violence

If you witness violence, focus on what you can do. 

Always keep yourself and others safe. Call 000 in an emergency.

We can all find outrselves in the presence of sexist insults and jokes, prejudice and stereotypical put-downs. To show you do not support this behaviour, you can:

  • Make your concern known using ‘I’ statements

‘I’ statements involve three elements: stating your feelings, naming the behaviour and stating how you want the other person to respond. For example:

    • “Hey mate, that’s sexist and I don’t think it’s funny.”
    • “I think those words are really hurtful.”
    • Refrain from laughing when you’re expected to.

This focuses on your feelings rather than criticizing the other person.

  • Personalise the violence or injustice:

Make the harms associated with violence more real by personalising them. Bring it home by asking:

    • “What if that was your sister / daughter / mother?”
    • “I hope no one ever talks about you like that.”

This prevents someone from distancing himself from the impact of his actions.

  • Remind him that she has feelings and rights:

Sometimes a simple statement is a reminder that we are all human beings and deserve to live free of abuse:

    • “Just like your mum or your sister, she has the right to be treated with respect.”
  • Remind him of his ‘best self’:
    • “Come on mate, you are better than that."
  • Use your friendship:
    • “Hey mate… as your friend I’ve gotta tell you that getting a girl drunk to have sex with her isn’t cool, and could get you in a lot of trouble. Don’t do it.”

This reframes the intervention as caring and less critical.

  • Invite group pressure:

Often you will not be the only one who feels uncomfortable if someone is being disrespectful or abusive. When you’re with friends, say:

    • “I don’t feel good about this. Does anyone else feel uncomfortable too?"

This is best used when many examples can be presented as evidence.

Download this information here.


This information is adapted from Dr Michael Flood’s report, Men Speak Up: A toolkit for action in men’s daily lives.