Bystander intervention is recognizing a potentially harmful situation or interaction and choosing to respond in a way that could positively influence the outcome.
BeVOCAL seeks to work at multiple levels of the social ecological model, addressing multiple issues of types of harm and enhancing individual level self-efficacy to intervene as well as collective responsibility and peer norms surrounding the importance of bystander intervention. We seek to shift the culture of the campus community with the promotion of intervention as a norm of our community, beginning at orientation through graduation.
Many studies have been conducted to examine the "bystander effect," a confusing pattern of social behaviors observed during situations in which witnesses ignore potential or actual harm and choose to do nothing to help another person. Numerous experiments have identified a number of factors that differentiate helping versus not helping those clearly in need.
BeVOCAL incorporates existing evidence of what motivates or prevents bystanders from effectively intervening. These factors found to significantly increase helping behavior include group cohesiveness, identification with person being targeted, previous interactions between the person and the observers and high feelings of witness competence. Conversely, barriers such as social influence, fear of embarrassment, diffusion of responsibility, fear of retaliation and pluralistic ignorance can prevent a bystander from helping.