By Kayla Woody, CPN House of Hope Prevention Specialist

Domestic violence is gaining more coverage in our society today. We hear about it throughout social media and news outlets. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by the hands of their intimate partner. A question that most ask is “What can I do to help?”

An effective way to help victims is learning to be an active bystander in your community. Bystander intervention is a vital part of the fight against domestic violence. An engaged bystander can help someone by intervening before, during or after the situation. Many hesitate to intervene because they do not know the best way to handle it.

Ten signs of an unhealthy relationship listed in salmon font next to a sketch of a heart shape: intensity, possessiveness, deflecting responsibility, manipulation, isolation, sabotage, belittling, guilting, volatility, betrayal.

Warning signs that a situation may be abusive

Is the aggressor:

  • Acting excessively jealous of their partner?
  • Insulting or embarrassing their partner in public?
  • Yelling at or trying to intimidate their partner?

Is the victim:

  • Acting submissive?
  • Showing physical injuries or wearing unusual clothing as if to hide an injury? (i.e., sunglasses indoors or long sleeves in summer)
  • Anxious to please their partner?
  • Afraid of their partner; talking about their temper, possessiveness or jealousy?
  • Restricted from seeing family and friends?
  • Limited in access to money or a car?
  • Depressed, anxious or suicidal?

Bystander barriers

  • I am unsure what to do or say.
  • I am not sure if it is safe to intervene.
  • I do not want to embarrass myself or the people involved.
  • What if it is not really abuse?
  • I do not want to offend anyone.
  • I do not know the people involved.
  • It is really none of my business.
  • I do not feel comfortable judging someone else’s behavior.
  • No one else is doing anything.
  • I hate conflict.

How to be an effective bystander

It may not always be safe to confront the perpetrator. Here are some tips on involvement at every stage of a situation.

  1. Interrupt or distract. When you witness the altercation, simply pretend to ask for directions or act as if you know the victim and start a conversation.
  2. Confront the perpetrator. You can interfere by respectfully telling the harasser that their actions are not okay.
  3. Request assistance from others. The more people who can assist you in stopping the situation, the more likely the violence will end.
  4. Make a scene. Sometimes attention to the situation can delay an escalation.
  5. Call in professionals. If the situation is threatening your safety or the safety of others, it is best to contact law enforcement to assist.
  6. Familiarize yourself with local domestic violence shelters.

How can you make a difference?

With the staggering statistics of domestic violence, there is a good chance that you know someone who is affected. Most often, violent situations remain behind closed doors, but if you pay close enough attention, you will see that perpetrators also act aggressively in public. Educate yourself on behaviors to look for and spread the word in the community about helping.

  • Recognize that domestic violence is a real problem in the community.
  • Speak up about bystander intervention and the importance of helping others.
  • Do not brush off uncomfortable situations; say or do something.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, stalking, and/or sexual assault and would like more information, contact CPN House of Hope at 405-275-3176 or visit us online at