Why is Bystander Intervention Training in Demand?

Posted by Josh Young on 27 April 2017 |

why bystander intervention trainingIt works. End of article.

Although if you're reading this, you probably would like more than just our word for it, which is actually pretty responsible.

Luckily there are a number of documented cases that clearly demonstrate how bystander intervention training can help fight violence and empower students to create a safer campus environment.

What Are Some Examples of Bystander Intervention Programs?

Green Dot

Created by Dr. Dorothy Edwards, the Green Dot program promotes using bystander intervention techniques to help prevent incidents of "power-based personal violence." The program was developed after Dr. Edwards, formerly the Violence Intervention and Prevention director at the University of Kentucky, learned that many students were unsure of how to respond when witnessing a potential sexual assault.

In response to this uncertainty, the Green Dot program encourages students to react to potentially harmful social situations using the three D's:

  • Direct - speak to the parties directly and calmly
  • Distract - interrupt the situation
  • Delegate - recruit others around you to help diffuse the situation

To evaluate the effectiveness of the Green Dot program, the University of Kentucky conducted a comprehensive study as the program was introduced into 26 Kentucky high schools over a period of five years. The university identified a greater than 50 percent reduction in self-reported perpetration of sexual violence and a 40 percent reduction in all violence (including sexual violence, sexual harassment, stalking, and dating violence) among students at schools with the program.

A later study conducted by the university focused on the performance of Green Dot education among college students. For this study, the school evaluated the responses of 2,504 college undergraduates, finding that those students who had undergone Green Dot training reported engaging in "significantly more" incidents of bystander intervention than their untrained peers. Even those students who had only heard a single Green Dot speech (and not undergone the full training program) had been more likely to engage as an active bystander.


In its Intervene program, Cornell Health (formerly Gannet Health Services) explored how bystander intervention could help prevent and mitigate the impact of a number of social issues common to today's college campus, including:

  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual harassment
  • Emotional abuse from an intimate partner
  • Hazing
  • Alcohol emergencies
  • Emotional Distress
  • Bias and discrimination

Alongside a more traditional workshop, the school produced a 20-minute video that illustrated multiple bystander intervention techniques in real-world scenarios reflecting these various topics. The program also offers recommended strategies to handle these situations, identifying the seven stages necessary for an effective bystander intervention:

  1. Recognize the behavior
  2. Interpret the behavior as a problem
  3. Feel a sense of responsibility
  4. Know what to do (or not do)
  5. Feel empowered that you have the ability to do something
  6. Perform a quick cost/benefit analysis of taking action
  7. Act

And to test the effectiveness of  the Intervene program, Cornell Health conducted surveys among graduate and undergraduate students four weeks after they had either watched the video or attended a workshop.

When comparing the survey responses of these students against those who had not seen the film or participated in a workshop, participants of the Intervene program indicated that they were more likely to intervene as a bystander if one of these potentially harmful situations arose.


Rather than focusing on a single program, Jennifer Katz and J. Moore conducted a meta-analysis of 12 studies evaluating bystander intervention programs among college students. Their research suggested that these programs encourage students to behave as active bystanders and improved their "bystander efficacy." Participants of bystander intervention training also seemed to be less accepting of "rape myths" and less likely to behave in a sexually aggressive manner.

A similar meta-analysis of 12 anti-bullying campaigns, involving 12,874 secondary and elementary students, found that these programs "increased bystander intervention both on a practical and statistically significant level."


Becoming an active bystander can be unnerving and downright frightening, but by providing your students with the proper education and training, you can equip them to become a positive force for change on your campus.

To learn more about our training courses and how to promote and encourage bystander intervention at your school, request a demo of our services today.

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