5Ds of Bystander intervention

Have you seen anyone being harassed in public? Have you felt the need to support them but didn’t know how? Many of us have felt that desire for bystander intervention but never act on it. Many of us are victims of it and wished for support but found nothing. Today, things are changing and the world is slowly improving. Prevention and intervention techniques exist to help people and support any harassment victims.

Today’s world is one where we cannot understate the importance of bystander intervention. To learn how to help others, we first must understand why we do not intervene in the first place.

Why there is little bystander intervention

Most often, people don’t know what to do. When faced with these situations, many of us don’t know what to do or how to intervene. There are several other reasons why people are unable to support others. These include

  • Lack of context on the situation
  • Fear of escalating things further
  • No one is doing anything, so why take the first step

The reasons make sense to anyone reading it. However, many bystanders don’t know that the people in trouble want help. To people looking to help others but are not sure how there are a set of rules you can follow. These rules are the 5D’s of Bystander intervention. These intervention techniques help de-escalate the situation and help the victim.

The 5D’s of bystander intervention and how to use them

The 5D’s are distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct. You can use these methods in any problem without risking further harm to the victim or yourself.


You can use an indirect approach to distract the attacker and shift the focus to something else. This intervention technique gets the harasser to stop and brings relief to the victim.

For example, if you see someone being harassed anywhere in public, you can distract the attacker by asking them something completely irrelevant to the current topic. That way, you shift attention away from the victim to something else.


If you are uncomfortable with the distract intervention technique, you can always rely on delegate. Typically, delegate requires you to seek out the help of someone else to intervene. This person is typically in a position of authority like a manager or owner.

However, think before getting the police involved. They may be the best choice for de-escalating a problem, but they can also put the attacker and victim in greater danger. Consider asking the victim if they want the police involved before you call them.


Smartphones are readily available to everyone and they all come equipped with a powerful camera. Always have your phones ready to record the problem so that there’s proof. This intervention technique is especially helpful if the victim decides to pursue legal action against the perpetrator.

Take note of what is happening and write down the details while they are fresh in your mind. Keep in mind the following points when you’re recalling the incident

  • The people involved
  • What was the time when the incident occurred
  • The location of the incident
  • What was said by the attacker to the victim

Also, if someone else is intervening in the problem, record the incident on your phone. This move helps the authorities gain context on the issue and helps in making a sound judgment.


Following the incident, you can check with the person and gauge their mental state. Take this time as an opportunity to provide support or ask if they need anything. Also, consider the points below as they can help the victim

  • Providing information about support resources
  • Ask the victim if they require any support or aid
  • Take them somewhere safe like their home or the local authorities
  • Request if they need help with reporting the incident


This form of bystander intervention is addressing the behavior as it happens in real time. There are three ways you can follow this intervention technique.

  • Name the behavior taking place before you
  • Observe and Identify what is happening to the victim then call it out
  • Tell the harasser that their behavior is unacceptable and give them a chance to back off

Also, in the event of online harassment, it is best to intervene only if you know the attacker and understand the platform you are on is a safe place. Today’s internet is one where anyone can hide their identity behind a digital mask. This makes it easy to attack anyone and attack the people trying to address the behavior.

The risk of intervening on social media platforms like Discord, Reddit, and, Facebook comes with terrible consequences. If you don’t know the harasser or the victim, the best thing you can do is contact a moderator.


Now you have five proven intervention techniques. Use this to de-escalate any problems whenever they arise. Violence against others often starts as back-handed remarks, insensitive jokes, rude comments, and harassment. When you see these things happening to a friend or a stranger, don’t stay idle. Use the 5D’s of bystander intervention to resolve the issue and prevent the problem from escalating.

Working together, we help each other and ultimately make the world a better place.