Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Spiro's HERO

A federally funded grant program at USM to addresses sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on USM’s campus through prevention and education efforts.


Have you ever been concerned about a situation and wanted to help… but didn’t? Welcome to the Bystander Effect, a situation that happens to most of us throughout our life. That’s why the University of Saint Mary has joined up with StepUP!, a comprehensive bystander intervention program that teaches students to be proactive in helping others.


This is a great, fast introduction to the StepUP! Program, produced by our friends at the University of Arizona.

Guide to SteppingUP!

It can be really HARD and INTIMIDATING to StepUP (and to know how to) which is why we offer StepUP! Empowered Bystander workshops throughout the semester.  A workshop where we can strategize together and build skills to StepUP in ways that are comfortable for us. Below is a basic guide with some ways we can StepUp.
Being an Empowered Bystander isn't about knowing or being 100% sure someone needs help. It's just about checking in and finding out if everyone is okay. 
  1. Go with your gut

Does something just not quite feel right? That’s a StepUP moment – a time we can check in, feel out a situation, and make sure everyone is okay. Many times we’ll be right about a situation and will be the difference in someone’s life story. Other times we may misread a situation and THAT’S OKAY. It was still a StepUP moment because we were unsure. No matter if it turns out to be harm or not we are still sending the powerful message that violence is not acceptable and that we have each other’s backs. The risks are too high not to take 1, 3, 5 minutes to feel out a situation and check in. 

PRACTICE ACTIVITY: (watch to 4:40)
Here’s just one visual example of what a StepUP moment can look like. We’ll use this example to help us throughout this guide.
When watching this video think about the following questions:
1. Do you see any StepUP moments?
2. Imagine you are in this scene as someone witnessing it. What behaviors can you actually OBSERVE/SEE that demonstrate that this is a StepUP moment? That someone is not consenting to what is happening? 
  1. Feel what you feel. Recognize and OWN the barriers you’re experiencing

Even when we recognize a StepUP moment and want to StepUP - it can be incredibly hard to do so because we experience multiple barriers (things that prevent us from taking action) that are shaped by our multiple identities, personalities, etc. Here’s some common barriers we may experience:

- Worried about personal safety

- Afraid what our friends may think

- Afraid of embarrassment

- Worried we may be wrong about a situation

- Personality Traits. Examples: Shy, don’t like conflict

- Don’t want to escalate things

- Not sure what to do

- No one else is doing anything

- Afraid of the impact it may have on our own community or seen as a traitor to our community, culture, etc. 

- May be friends with the person committing the act of harm 

It’s nearly impossible to just "overcome" our barriers, that's not realistic. And so we want to StepUP in ways that WORK WITH our barriers, so rather than ignoring them, OWN YOUR BARRIERS. Having barriers is okay! It means that you are aware of your own boundaries, needs, personality, and communication style. In order to do that we have to be truthful with ourselves and really think about what might come up for us when we find ourselves confronted with difficult situations. 

Which barriers do you think you might experience? Are there others not on the list? Take the video scene, for example. If you were the friend in the scene, what barriers might you have experienced? If you were the roommate in the scene, what barriers might you have experienced?
  1. Work with it. Find the StepUP actions that work WITH your barriers. 

THE GOOD NEWS: There’s just as many ways to StepUP (intervene) as there are people. It doesn't matter what we do just that we DO SOMETHING. We can get creative! Here are three main StepUP interventions that can help us reflect on what StepUP actions might be more realistic for us and address our barriers. Note: Different situations might call for different types of interventions, and some interventions can be used together.

Ways to intervene, aka...
The 3 D’s

DISTRACT - Divert their attention to something else! Stop the immediate moment and create space for someone to leave a situation or for you to further assess what's happening.

  • “Your car is getting towed!”
  • “Come with me to the bathroom!”
  • “I need you to take me home”
  • “PAT?!? Is that YOU?! I haven’t seen you in ages!”

DELEGATE - Ask for help! We can ask a friend or an authority figure to StepUP with us or on their own. Getting someone else to find out what’s up and look in on the situation is still SteppingUP!

  • Finding an RA
  • Talking with the host/manager/bouncer
  • Calling Public Safety

DIRECT - Be straight up! We can ask what’s going on, whether people feel comfortable, or let them know that what they are doing is not cool or unacceptable.

  • "Is everything okay?"
  • "Do you need help?"
  • "I feel uncomfortable with the way I've seen you treat your partner. It doesn't feel right."
  • “Don’t talk to them that way, that’s not cool.”
  1. Make a choice: to StepUP or not StepUP (continue video at 4:40)

The video above demonstrates the power of our actions and that we can actually prevent harm in the moment and be the difference in someone's life. We will all witness StepUP moments (situations where there's an absence of consent) at some point or another and will have to make a choice: to do something (to StepUP) or to do nothing. When we witness a messed up situation we are already involved in it just by watching and our actions have an impact.  No matter what we choose, it's important to note that we ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE for the violence that may or is happening - only those who commit acts of violence are. Violence will end when people stop harming others. However, we also know we don't live in that world yet and need to respond to the violence happening now. So until we live in a more consent centered world - there is a lot we can do to prevent harm and make clear that we do not tolerate violence. None of us are perfect and there will be times when we don't StepUP for the many reasons listed above. It doesn't make us terrible people - it makes us human. Our goal is simply to increase the amount of times we do StepUP and prevent harm by building skills and sharing strategies together. 

  1. Reflect on it. Check in with yourself, find supportive community

Whether or not you StepUP, it can be really helpful to reflect on your experience. How did it impact you?

If you did not StepUP, some questions to think about:

  • What barriers did you experience (what prevented you from SteppingUP)?
  • If a similar situation happens again, what might you want to do?
  • Is there an opportunity to check in w/ the people involved after the fact? For example, if you saw an acquaintance being treated aggressively by their partner in the dorm hall way: Maybe you weren't able to StepUP in that moment but next time you see them you can check in with them and share your support. Learn more about supporting survivors here.

If you did StepUP:

  • How did it go? Did you get the outcome you were looking for?
  • If there were others present, did you receive their support and/or any backlash for taking action?
  • If a similar situation happened, what might you do the same or differently? 
6. Treat Yourself. Self-care resources

SteppingUP can sometimes bring up a lot of emotions. We've got to take care of ourselves! We deserve to feel good. Find the self-care practice that works for you. If you felt triggered or traumatized (vicarious trauma is a real thing!) by your experience and/or are looking for immediate support, we have local, community and identity specific organizations that have 24 hour, confidential hotline numbers and chat lines, you can find them on our resources page.