We’ve all been there before – you’re walking across campus and you see another student in a situation where they might need some help. Maybe you overhear a couple arguing, or see someone who looks really upset about the phone call they just received.

Most of us want to help when we see a situation that concerns us, but we often feel unable to do something to help.

So what stops us from helping in these moments? We all face barriers that keep us from taking action, even when we really want to or think we should.

You may have experienced one of these common barriers:

  • There are other people around who will probably do something, so I don’t have to.
  • I don’t want to embarrass myself.
  • No one else noticed or is doing anything.
  • I don’t want to get hurt.
  • My friends will give me a hard time if I do something.
  • I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.
  • I’m shy.
  • I hate conflict.
  • It’s none of my business.
  • I don’t want to get involved.

These kinds of thoughts are completely normal. Depending on the specific situation and our individual preferences, we all experience different barriers to taking action.

But, there are many ways to intervene in a situation that concerns you. You may still be able to find a way to help that feels achievable.

Consider these three approaches, and think about which ones you might be able to use next time you see someone in an unsafe situation.

Direct – do something yourself.  Approach the person you’re concerned about and ask, “Hey, what’s going on here?” or “Are you okay?” or “Do you need help?”

Delegate – ask someone else for help. Ask a friend, residence hall advisor or mentor to step in. If necessary, call the police.

Distract – Diffuse the situation by diverting people’s attention. Pretend you are lost and ask for directions. Tell people there’s free food in the CUB. Start a conversation about an unrelated topic.

Interested in learning more about how you can take action to prevent violence? Request a workshop for your group, chapter, residence hall or department.