Unfortunately, in the current climate of divisiveness, different groups of people are harassed and bullied by others. LGBTQ shaming, AAPI harassment, cyberbullying, fat-shaming, sexual harassment, Islamophobia, and various forms of racism are all too common and have sought a mainstream platform where these injustices were once more hidden and less tolerated.

The Hollaback organization and others have developed trainings so that average people who witness these vile acts have a way to be proactive and support the person who is being targeted. The Five Ds of Bystander Intervention are actions that you can take to support someone who is being bullied or harmed in some way. A bystander watches and does not intervene. An Upstander gets involved to help in an appropriate way. When it comes to injustice, no action is passive acceptance. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Here are the 5 D’s of upstander action:


Directly intervene in a situation. Speak up about the harm. Be firm and clear. Example: “Hey, I overheard your conversation. It sounds like you are feeling worried or scared about someone using the ‘wrong bathroom. I thought it might be helpful for you to know that the university has made it clear that everyone has the right to use the bathroom that fits their identity; the sign outside says so.”


Get help from someone else. Scan the situation to assess risk and determine how to best intervene. Then, delegate tasks to others around you.

Example: If there are others around, suggest that someone support the person experiencing harm (e.g., assist in leaving the situation), while you try to de-escalate the situation and person causing harm.


After the incident is over, check in with the person who was harmed. This is essential because it shows the individual that they, and their gender identity, are valued. Delay also could mean continuing to educate ourselves and those around us about further steps to be in solidarity with the trans and non-binary community.

Example: Stick around and once it’s safe, let the impacted person know about options for reporting as well as supports and resources. You can also ask if they need anything or offer to walk them to a safer place. Please see the connected documents to learn more.


Take an indirect approach to de-escalate the situation. Distracting attention away from the person causing harm to give the person experiencing harm time to move away.

Example: Pretend to be lost and ask for directions to a building. Ask for the time. Pretend you know the person being harassed. Talk to them about something random and take attention away from the harasser. ‘Accidentally’ spill your drink or drop something that creates a distracting commotion.


If someone is already intervening and you believe the person causing harm behavior is escalated, you can document the situation.

Example: Document the interaction by recording on your phone, taking a photo of the individual causing harm, or writing notes. Afterward, ask the person who experienced harm what they would like to do with the documentation. Never post or share a video without the consent of the person being harmed. Putting a video (or even a picture) online can expose the person who was harmed to harassment, doxing (i.e., posting personal information online) or other continued harm – this is especially true among the trans and non-binary community. Posting may also trigger the involvement of law enforcement or institutional processes even when the person harmed doesn’t want that.

Regardless of how you choose to intervene, you should always stay with the person being harmed until they are safe.

 For more information on upstander trainings and approaches, go to www.ihollaback.com

Holly O. Houston, Ph.D.

Adapted from: Adapted from Wilfrid Laurier University, Centre for Anti-Violence Education The Five ‘Ds’ of Bystander Intervention and Hollaback’s 5D’s.