Bystander Intervention | The Five Ds

When you see someone being bullied or harassed, remember the Five Ds of bystander intervention: Distract, Delegate, Document, Delay, and Direct. These five strategies can help you protect and support victims, as well as set a positive example for others by standing up for your community members.

However you choose to intervene, always stay with the person who is being harassed until you are confident of their safety.


Distraction is an indirect approach to intervening in harassment. Take attention away from the harassment by distracting the victim. Use innocuous, unrelated questions to draw the victim’s attention away from the perpetrator. Don’t acknowledge the person who is harassing them.

Alternatively, distraction can be used to redirect the attention of the person who is doing the harassment. Cause a distraction, like asking the perpetrator for directions, allowing the victim time to get away or get help.


Delegating involves seeking help. For kids witnessing bullying, this might include telling a coach, teacher, or trusted adult about the incident. Adults should seek help from friends, professors, or other bystanders who look ready to help.

Consider the risk of the situation and the best way to de-escalate, then take charge and delegate tasks to those around you. Be firm—tell them to do it, don’t ask if they will. Tasks might include the use of other 5D strategies, like:

  • Staying with the victim while you confront the perpetrator
  • Calling the authorities or medical help
  • Causing a distraction
  • Recording the incident


Documentation of harassment can help immensely if the victim chooses to pursue consequences for the perpetrator. Recall and write down the details of the incident while they’re fresh, including:

  • Who was involved
  • When it happened
  • Where it happened
  • What was said/done

Alternatively, if someone else is already intervening in the situation, record the interaction on your phone. Remember: the person who was harassed gets the final say on what to do with the footage. Do not use it without their permission.


After the incident is over, check up on the person who was harassed. This may include:

  • Offering information about support resources
  • Walking them home, to their car, or another safe place
  • Asking what they need to feel supported
  • If asked, helping them report the incident


The Direct strategy is exactly what it sounds like: getting directly involved by confronting the person who is harassing. Keep it short when you call out their behavior; debating or arguing with the perpetrator could lead to escalation.

Before deciding to take a direct approach, consider:

  • Is everyone involved, including you, physically safe?
  • Is the situation likely to escalate?
  • Does the victim of harassment seem like they want help?

The videos embedded above are also available in Cantonese, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, and Spanish. To learn more about how you can be an active ally for community members in Central Minnesota visit the Unite Cloud blog or contact us online.