supporting others

Have you ever witnessed behaviour in the street that made you uncomfortable? Or been at home and overheard something happening next door that doesn’t seem right? Perhaps you’re concerned that a friend is unusually withdrawn?

While most of us want to help, it can be hard to know what to do or say safely.

being an active bystander and ally

At WAGEC, we talk about being active bystanders and allies. These terms help define the different contexts, responsibilities, and expectations around supporting a person experiencing gender-based violence.

Being a bystander refers to seeing something happen in a public setting. Being an ally means supporting someone you know, like a friend or family member, over a period of time.

Find out how you can support someone as a bystander or ally:

Prioritising safety

Safety must be at the core of any decision-making that you take when supporting someone as a bystander or ally.

If your action may increase the risk to the person who is being abused or your own safety is compromised, then it's often better to reconsider what the options might be. 

Being an active bystander

Being a bystander tends to refer to seeing something happen in a public setting. You may be a bystander when you are supporting someone when you see something and safely step in on the street or at an event. A bystander intervenes when it is safe to do so and generally relates to supporting someone after something has happened for a short period of time.

5 D's to be an active bystander

Developed by the organisation, Right To Be, the 5 D's are designed to guide you in safely intervening with anyone being harassed in public. These actions have been made to not escalate situations, and to mostly be indirect methods of intervention.
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01. Distract

Think of subtle, indirect ways you can de-escalate the situation.

2. Delegate

Get help intervening from a third-party person close by.

3. document

If it is safe to do so, record evidence of an incident by either taking notes or recording.


If we are unable to act during the incident, check in with the person afterward.


Assess your safety first, and speak up about the harassment. Be firm and clear.

active bystander and allies

Knowing what to do as an ally or bystander means that we can help the people around us while taking care of our own safety. Here are some things to remember:

Being an active ally

Being an ally means supporting someone you know, like a friend, family member or work colleague, over a period of time. An ally might check in on their friend to ask if they're ok. Being an ally usually means being more intimately involved in supporting the person, sometimes over a period of weeks, months or years.

5 r's to be an active ally

The 6 R’s help guide people as they support friends, family members, and work colleagues who might have experienced/or are experiencing intimate partner violence. You could move through these 6 R’s in a day or even over months, it all depends on your relationship with the person, the nature of the situation, and where that person is in their journey.


Watching out for red flags of an unhealthy relationship or domestic and family violence.

2. Respond

Check in with the person by asking, actively listening, reassuring and documenting.

3. respect

It is never the fault of the victim-survivor, respect their choices, they will know what is safest.

4. refer

By educating the person experiencing violence about the different types of support services available, including 1800 RESPECT.


By taking care of yourself. Domestic and family violence is upsetting, and after hearing about it you may feel sad, angry, or helpless. Self-care is key.


An indication that someone is experiencing abuse is if you notice a pattern of behaviour that might resemble the cycle of violence.

The cycle of violence explains how and why the behaviour of a person who uses violence may change. The cycle moves from a build-up phase, stand over, acute explosion, remorse, pursuit, honeymoon and then back to buildup. As an ally, this might explain why you might notice red flags one week, but everything seems ok the week after.

safety planning

If someone has disclosed to you, one practical action you might offer is to help them plan their safety, particularly when they’re in a relationship and are not contemplating leaving.

Identify support options

Practical considerations for safety planning

This may include documents, finances, emergencies, children, pets, language and interpretation, legal issues, documents, healthcare.

involve other agencies

It may sometimes involve other agencies e.g. a specialist service.

Changing the plan

Things might change, so the plan might need to be revised to support whatever’s happening now.

Looking after yourself

Find support options

If you or someone you know needs support, help is available.

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