05. Bystanders and allies

Illustration and animation: Michael Mascarenas
Sound design: Sonar Music
'Change the Story' framework: Our Watch

Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia. We recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ continuing connection to land, waters and culture and pay our respect to Elders past and present.Sovereignty was never ceded. This was, is and always will be Aboriginal land.

Bystanders and allies

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 Perhaps you’re concerned that a friend is unusually withdrawn?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, we may not know what to do or say.

A bystander intervenes when it’s safe to do so.  

An ally checks in with their friend to ask if they’re ok.

Your response may change depending on the circumstances, your relationship to the people involved and your ability to intervene safely. Your involvement might be used as an excuse by the abusive person to do further harm.

If you witness violence and you don’t know the people involved, here are some things to think about as a bystander:

·      Consider whether there’s a safe way to approach themas a circuit breaker and connect with the person being abused— you could pretend to be asking directions on the street.

·      If others are around, you may want to get them to step in with you.

·      If it’s a neighbour, think about other ways to engage the person being abused.

If you’re concerned about someone you know here are some things to remember to be an ally:

1.      If they share with you that their partner is being abusive, believe them. Listen to what they have to say and don’t try to problem-solve or give advice.

2.     Ask what you can do to help.

3.     Don’t judge. It can take a number of attempts before someone leaves. Not everyone is able to leave or wants to.

4.     Let them know you’ll be there when they need someone.

Remember in any situation, if you think someone’s in danger call police.

Knowing what to do as a bystander or ally means that we can help the people around us whilst taking care of our own safety.

If you or someone you know needs support in Australia call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or go to www.wagec.org.au