You don’t need superhero powers to step in and help strangers -or friends- when they’re in trouble, as long as it's safe.
According to Jessica Raven with Collective Action for Safe Spaces there’s a lot of practical things any one of us can do to ease a tense situation, without getting hurt in the process.
First of all, make sure you'll be safe.
Here’s three main strategies to keep in mind:
- Be Direct
You can use these strategies with the person who’s being targeted or the aggressor in the situation.
Being Direct can be as simple as saying, ‘Hey, that’s not ok!’
Or, you can ask the victim if they’re ok.
"Just posing that question allows them to keep their agency in the situation.” Said Raven. “It gives them a chance to tell you I’m not ok and what they want to happen next. It also signals to the aggressor in the situation that people are watching and they’re ready to intervene.”
An example of a distraction technique was used by ‘snackman’ in a viral video taken on a New York Subway. The man put himself in between two people having a fight while casually eating his potato chips.
“Every time they try to get around him to hit each other, he just continues to eat his chips.” Said Raven.
This distraction helped empower other passengers to delegate among themselves and separate the fighters safely. Delegating may simply involve asking someone larger or better situated to help.
“Delegating can be really effective, especially if you don’t feel safe, or if someone else is better equipped to intervene.” Said Raven.
Two other D words to keep in mind are Delay and Document. If you’ve arrived after the fact, or were too paralyzed in the moment to act, Raven said you can always follow up and make sure the victim is ok. It’s also useful to take pictures or video when possible.
As for whether we should be nosy- and get involved, Raven said it’s the right thing to do- so long as it can be done safely.
“I think that we as a community are all responsible for keeping each other safe. And we can promote that cultural norm by always intervening," said Raven.