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Also referred to as an onlooker or spectator, a bystander refers to a person who is present but does not take part in an event that involves an unacceptable behavior or a conflict (Fischer, Greitemeyer, Pollozek, and Frey 267–278). Everybody has become a bystander at some point in their lives. Bystander behavior may be done once, or repeatedly, but in general, bystander behaviors are either destructive, or likely to worsen a bad situation. Both children and adults constitute bystanders. Examples of situations which bystanders find themselves in include bullying, harassment, rudeness, discriminatory behavior, inconsideration, meanness, inappropriate advances, threats, and escalating conflict among others (Fischer et al. 267–278).

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Bystanders can either contribute to the solution or problem of a given event depending on how they respond to it. There are mainly two types of bystanders i.e. active and passive bystanders (Fischer et al. 267–278). Active bystanders are people who take steps to create a difference by intervening directly, or through the support of others to stop a given situation from continuing. For instance, in the case where a bystander is witnessing someone being bullied, they can either intervene by defending the victim, discouraging the bully, or redirecting the incident away from the bullying. Passive bystanders, who are the majority, usually watch and do nothing about a given situation, and conseqently, add to the problem without realizing it (Fischer et al. 267–278). Passive bystanders offer bullies the audience they crave for, and their silence permits bullies to persist hurting their victims.  Other types of bystanders include those who are not active participants of the bullying but they support it via cheering, laughing or making comments that encourage the bully (Hart, and Miethe 637–651). In addition, there are disengaged onlookers who observe the bullying but show no concern, as well as, possible defenders who are against the bullying and think they should offer assistance but they do not.

Some of the reasons that make many bystanders reluctant to intervene in a situation include the fear of getting hurt in the process, the fear of retribution, not wanting to draw attention of the gathered crowd to themselves, the lack of concern, the feeling of powerlessness in stopping the bulling, dislike for the victim, and being uncertain of what to do among others (Hart, and Miethe 637–651). This paper provides my opinion regarding what I would do as a bystander of bullying or sexual harassment.

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What I Would Do As a Bystander of Bullying or Sexual Harassment

It is vital to mention that the response of the bystanders indicates the stance of the community to both the bully and the victim (Hudson, and Bruckman 165–195). In the case where bystandeers observe a crime taking place without intervening, the offended person usually get more infuriated at the bystander than the perpetrator for failing to take any action to help them. This might leave one feeling guilty for refusing to assist the victim (Hudson, and Bruckman 165–195). If I find myself as a bystander in a given situation, I would gladly intervene to help the victim because it is the right thing to do. Below is how I would go about my intervention:

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Irrespective of whether someone is being bullied or being sexually harassed, I would first assess the situation to find out what kind of help is appropriate, evaluating the best strategy options that are likely to reduce any potential risks to both the victim and myself (Hudson, and Bruckman 165–195).  I believe that the decision to make a difference in other people’s lives is not about the numbers, but the will, and therefore, notwithstanding whether I am the only person who is against the incident going on, I will immediately confront the bully to stop whatever he is doing. After which, I will try to calm down the offender and the offended person and encourage dialogue between them to determine where the problem is. Upon knowing which party is on the wrong, I will report him or her to the relevant authorities so that proper action can be taken. I challenge people to choose to be active bystanders by intervening in unacceptable behaviors to ensure that offenders are punished.

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