The ABCs of Intervention

A is for Asking first

A is for Asking first“Are you okay?”

“Is he harassing you?”

“Is there someone I can call?”

“Do you want to sit with us?”

“What can I do to help?”

If this is not your crisis, ask first. Get consent and follow their lead.

You have implied consent to intervene if a victim is unable to give consent and appears to be at risk.

Intervention could be as simple as offering a safer seat on transit or just letting someone know you are willing to be a witness to their experience.

Pay attention to changing needs and be willing to back down. 

Intervention is about empowerment, not taking away control.

You do not necessarily need consent if DISTRACTION, DISRUPTION, or OBSTRUCTION is your method of intervention.

Consent is unnecessary when discussing harmful attitudes and behaviours within your own group.

B is for BehaviourB is for the Behaviour we focus on

Focusing on the behaviour and its impact, rather than on the person and their intent, has a greater likelihood of stopping harmful behaviour.

Do not use personal attacks, insults, threats, or obscenities.

You are not there to “fix” anybody nor are you there to label them or to “win” — the likelihood of any sort of meaningful change coming from a single interaction is very low.

C is for Calling it by nameC is for Calling it by name

Calling harmful behaviour by name allows for focus to remain on the behaviour, its impacts, and unacceptability.

Naming harmful behaviour also makes it clear who is being defended and from what.

“______ is harassment.”

D is for Demanding it stopD is for Demanding it stop

This is no time to debate, argue, try to diagnose, delve into history, or otherwise be distracted from your goal of enhanced safety and access.

“______ is harassment. Stop it.”

Attempts to derail you can be met with stating and restating relevant boundaries, naming the behaviour, and demanding that it stop.

If the behaviour stops, disengage.


E is for Engaging available resourcesE is for Engaging available resources

including our own experiences and the people around us.

If appropriate, consider bringing up relevant personal experience, relationships, policies, and legislation in relation to the harmful behaviour.

Involve bystanders and others with an interest in public safety by giving clear instructions.

Smart phones or other devices can record evidence for employers, the media, or even the police.

Business managers, bus-drivers, teachers, and so on, have a responsibility to keep their environment as safe and inviting as possible.

Government employees likely have radios or telephones with which to contact authorities.

9-1-1 is a form of intervention that should never be taken lightly.

You are the expert when it comes to your own safety, comfort, and limitations. Please take only the risks you feel reasonably capable of handling.
This advice on entering into conflict is a Course Companion to The Best Defence Program Counter-Violence & Advocacy Training.

Print this handy pamphlet double-sided with short-edge binding to share the ABCs of Intervention and start a discussion.