What is an Active Bystander?

What is an active bystander, you ask?  Here's a definition for our use:

A term originally used in communities fighting against violence toward women, bystanders are the largest group of people involved in violent, oppressive, and insensitive acts – they greatly outnumber both the perpetrators of those acts and the people that the acts are directed toward, the victims. Bystanders have a range of involvement in these acts. Some know that a specific situation is happening or will happen, some see the act in progress, and some know that situations do happen. Regardless of how close to the situation they are, bystanders have the power stop insensitivity and oppression from occurring and to get help for people who have been affected. 

We have all been bystanders in our lives, and we will all be in situations where we are bystanders in the future. The choice, then, becomes whether we are going to be active bystanders who speak up and say something, or whether we will be passive bystanders who stand by and say nothing.  Many of us often don't know what to say or do in situations like this, therefore we invite you to begin building skills to strengthen your resolve to be an active bystander.

Understand, we are not advocating that people risk their own safety in order to be an active bystander, though we also believe that the creation of the inclusive campus we want takes all members of the community to be involved in the work of change. Remember, there is a range of actions that are appropriate, depending on the situation.