Authors Jason Marsh and Dacher Keltner present a question we are all familiar with: why is it so hard to intervene when we see something wrong? While some people may be more prone to intervention than others, the qualities that turn a bystander into a hero are surprisingly nuanced. Typically, when witnesses are in a group, they feel less personal responsibility to react to a situation. Anything from the possibility of embarrassment to anxiety to running short on time can turn a witness into a bystander. However, even in the face of greater obstacles, some people show a natural inclination to intervene due to their past experiences or the other relationships in their lives. Ultimately, bystander intervention or a lack thereof is not driven by cowardice or evil, but rather a myriad of incredibly complex factors, unique to everyone.
Jason Marsh is the founding editor in chief of Greater Good Science Center and the GGSC’s executive director. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Utne Reader, among other publications.
Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. Dacher is the host of the Greater Good Science Center’s award-winning podcast, The Science of Happiness.
1. Describe a time when you didn't intervene when you know you should have. What prevented you from intervening? How can you overcome or work around that barrier in the future?
2. What barriers to bystander intervention do the authors explore? How might those barriers factor into your own willingness to act?
3. What is “diffusion of responsibility”? Where do you see it playing out in everyday life?
In a group, discuss ways you might use each of the three D's to intervene on behalf of another community member.
There are moments in life when our gut tells us something is wrong, or we sense something “off” about a situation. Those moments give us choices we must make, and each path has its own set of complications and barriers, but the choice remains. In “We Are All Bystanders” by Jason Marsh and Dacher Keltner, you will explore some of the more complicated choices humans face on a regular basis. Marsh and Keltner explore many instances of bystanders as well as outcomes they had to live with. Through this text I challenge you to think about how people could have made different choices and how might you make different choices. Adaptability may be the energy you need.
Marsh and Keltner explore many themes about bystander intervention and the effort for someone to say something and prevent harm from happening. In my experience, and as the text reinforces, people can learn the skill intervening with adaptability, make it a habit. With exposure and practice, everyone can be adaptable and overcome the fear of intervening in a situation. Susquehanna can provide these exposure opportunities through our Green Dot program. Green Dot will allow you to participate in and become as the text says, “better prepared next time in a crisis situation.” I would encourage you to be brave and challenge yourself. College is full of opportunities to flex your adaptability and learn to overcome barriers that prevent you from intervening.
Green Dot is a comprehensive violence prevention program. Its objective is to decrease the likelihood of dating/domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault occurring on our campus through bystander intervention.
Green Dot is based on of the idea that collectively, small actions have large impacts. These smalls steps very quickly become a movement, and this movement creates a culture shift. This culture shifts creates a community that says violence will not be tolerated, and we will all do our part to create a safer community.
Thousands of people are victims of sexual assault, partner violence, and stalking every year. We define these acts of violence as red dots. Red Dots are:
With enough Green Dots, we can outnumber the red dots and reduce the rates of violence. Green Dots are:
You don’t have to be a superhero to put a green dot on our campus map. In fact, green dots can be simple and small. What’s important is that everyone in our community chooses to do something about violence on our campus. No one has to do everything, but everyone has to do something.
Though there may be barriers when making the choice to step in, you have options. The 3Ds are the toolbox of the Green Dot program that demonstrate the variety of strategies you can use when making the choice to intervene. Saying no to violence is always the right decision and the 3Ds help you say no in a way that works best for you. The 3Ds are: Direct, Delegate, and Distract.
When making the choice to step in, you have options. The 3Ds are the toolbox of the Green Dot program that demonstrate the variety of strategies you can use when making the choice to intervene. Saying no to violence is always the right decision and the 3Ds help you say no in a way that works best for you. The 3Ds are: Direct, Delegate, and Distract.
Directly inserting yourself into a potential red dot situation and stopping it by addressing those who are involved.
If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable stepping in yourself, getting someone to intervene for you who might be more equipped or better able to handle the situation.
Defusing a potential red dot by distracting those involved and interrupting the choice to make a red dot.
Sign up for a Green Dot Training
Ask the student orgs you participate in to spend the first five minutes of each meeting discussing a situation of harm and crowdsource intervention techniques from the group.
Encourage your friends, family, teammates, etc. to get trained.
Volunteer to help staff an action event on campus. Volunteer to help our trainers facilitate training sessions across campus.