Being a Bystander
Dating violence affects everyone around the couple involved. Those other people, the ones who see, hear, or learn of abuse, are called bystanders.
We are all bystanders because dating violence occurs in all of our communities.
You don't have to do anything dramatic or extreme to make a difference in a dating violence situation or help prevent one from happening in the first place. A bystander action can be as simple as asking the person being abused if they are okay, telling a trusted adult, or offering helpful information. That's why being informed about this issue and the help that's available is key.
Dating violence isn't "drama." Anyone who is aggressive toward another person or causes them harm – not just physically, but mentally or emotionally as well – is being abusive. When these behaviors take place within a relationship, whether with a current or ex dating partner, it's dating violence. It's not okay.
Knowing more will help you build your confidence in knowing when to speak up and when to seek additional help. It's often a simple act from a caring bystander that can be a lifeline to someone experiencing dating violence.
You just need to know more so you can do more.
This tool is called Know What to Do: Help Someone Experiencing Domestic or Dating Violence.
Use it to start a conversation with anyone you know or suspect is experiencing abuse and to find ways you can support them.
It can be difficult for someone outside of a relationship to understand, but it is very hard to end an abusive relationship.
One way to help the person stay safe is to create a personalized, practical plan that helps them avoid dangerous situations and identify the best steps to take if they are in danger.
Visit loveisrespect.org for an Interactive Guide to Safety Planning.
Here are some tips when creating a plan to help keep someone safe:
- Listen and be supportive. Allow the person to make their own decisions.
- Don't judge, blame or belittle. The person's partner may already put them down, and their self-esteem may be low.
- Connect the person to help and information in their area.
- Don't post about the person on social networking sites. Never use social media to reveal their current location or where they hang out.
Finally, don't give up. It can be frustrating when, even if you try to help, the person still remains with their partner. But ending any relationship, especially an abusive one, is complicated, and those experiencing dating violence need strong support systems in order to do so. Read more about the importance of support systems at loveisrespect.org.
- Speak up if you hear your friends using language or telling jokes that are demeaning toward women or men or that promote violence.
- Educate yourself about healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse.
- If you notice that your friend has bruises or reoccurring injuries, ask what is happening in a non-judgmental way.
- Talk to your friends about establishing boundaries in their relationships and the dangers of digital abuse.
- If you suspect that your friend is in an abusive relationship, talk to a trusted adult, contact your local domestic violence agency, or call the statewide Helpline at 1-800-494-8100.
- If your friend tells you that they are in an abusive relationship, be supportive and patient. Contact your local domestic violence agency, call the statewide Helpline, or get an adult involved who can help.
- Join or start a club for young people at your school or in your community that addresses dating violence and builds skills around how to have healthy relationships.
- Make sure your school has a policy addressing dating violence, trains faculty on this issue, and offers dating violence education to you and your peers. It's Rhode Island law!
- Host an event at your school or in your community that raises awareness about dating violence and promotes healthy relationships.
- Volunteer with a local domestic violence agency.