It Ends Today is a student-led and student-run non-profit organization focusing on promoting bystander intervention and raising awareness of emotional intelligence. Our organization sends high school volunteers to elementary and middle schools all around the world to teach students about the harmful effects of bullying and what students can do to become a safe, active bystander.  We encourage students to speak out against bullying and promote bystander intervention via social media and give students the opportunity to win academic scholarships. 

So what exactly is a bystander?

In bullying situations it can be easy for people to label the bully and the victim and to analyze their respective roles. However, recognizing the bystander and realizing that there are, in fact, several bystanders who can make a positive impact is the first step in remedying the problem. A bystander is a person who watches the bullying or hears about it, and he or she makes a conscious decision to remain on the outskirts of the situation.

It is difficult to classify a bystander because people react differently to different situations. Here are a few ways that bystanders can behave.

  • Ignore the situation entirely
  • Passively observe the bullying unfold
  • Prompt the bully to begin the action
  • Support the bullying, in fear or out of spite
  • Intervene by going directly to the bully or by aiding the victim
  • Ask others for help in tackling the problem

Why do people decide not intervene?

Sometimes people feel that the situation is not their business. They think that taking action will exacerbate the problem. Some bystanders may ask a teacher, adult, or friend for help and receive no response. This can be discouraging, but do not give up! Some bystanders fear that they will get hurt themselves if they get involved or even become another target for the bully.  It is extremely important to avoid putting yourself in danger. Nonetheless, there are other ways to tackle the issue.

Why is it important to take action?

You may think that the bullying situation is not about you, but it is. Bullying impacts everyone’s lives at some point in time. Bystanders who do nothing to solve the problem or do not report the bullying can experience negative repercussions too. They may feel significant pressure to join in on the bullying. They may be afraid to speak to anyone and subsequently carry the burden in secret, which is not healthy. Bystanders sometimes feel helpless and vulnerable. Furthermore, bystanders can feel remorseful because they do not intervene.

Taking action is the first step to stopping the bullying at its root. Do not think that you are powerless to make a difference. You are a key player, so do what you can.