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Don't be a Bystander

Don't be a Bystander

The ‘Don’t be a Bystander’ campaign aims to show how powerful a positive intervention can be for someone who is experiencing or who has experienced violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Our aim is to create a culture across Wales where people are empowered to actively help prevent violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

This campaign aims to encourage everyone in Wales to act; to do something when they are worried someone they know may be experiencing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. This multi-media campaign includes a film, radio, digital and social media.

In the film, actors speak the words of survivors of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Many of the words in the film are directly from survivors of abuse and are the words they would say to those who supported them during their experience of abuse.

Survivors are speaking to those who were bystanders during their own experience of abuse.  In some cases, the bystanders offered help, took the time to ask “are you okay”.  In other cases the bystanders didn’t offer help.

“All I wanted was for someone to ask me, especially on my lowest days”

Rachel - survivor

The film demonstrates how much impact one person asking another if they are okay can have.  It encourages the viewer to ask “are you okay?” to someone they are worried about and to offer support to that person by signposting them to the Live Fear Free helpline and website.  

Wales will not stand by or accept violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence.

The campaign does not aim to encourage people to intervene in situations that are dangerous or where they could get hurt. No one should ever step into a violent situation as doing so puts them at risk and can increase the risk to the person they are worried about.

If you are worried that someone is in immediate danger, call 999.

“Think……what if this was my loved one, would I ignore what I am hearing, would I shut it out of my mind, would I mind my own business? The answer is no, so please call us if you believe someone is suffering and in need of help and support. We can’t be everywhere but working together, as one community, we all can be there for victims of domestic and gender based violence.”

Liane James, Assistant Chief Constable, Dyfed Powys Police 

What is a bystander?

You are a bystander when you see something that worries you but do not do anything about it.  

We want to encourage people to think about the situations they may find themselves witnessing in relation to violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and to think about what they might be able to do to help. How they may be able to offer support and safety, a ‘HARBOUR’ to their friend, family member or colleague:

  • Help – offering practical help such as making or getting to appointments and signposting to support e.g. the Live Fear Free helpline.
  • Ask - “are you okay?”.
  • Recognise - if behaviour seems odd or unusual.
  • Being available to someone so that they never become isolated by the abuse they have experienced.
  • Observe - if someone’s demeanour changes, especially if they appear to be withdrawing or becoming down or depressed.
  • Understanding – by showing understanding, being supportive and not judging.
  • Re-assurance - be supportive, patient, kind and re-assure them that the abuse is not their fault.

Approaching someone you think is experiencing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual abuse?

Many of us have witnessed, heard or seen someone act in a way that was derogatory, degrading, abusive or violent. This could have been a sexist comment, a put down or physical violence.

There are many reasons why it is difficult to approach someone you are worried may be experiencing violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

  • You might think you are interfering, that your question will be seen as intrusive and will be unwelcome. You might think that this is a personal matter and none of your business.
  • You may hope that someone else will help, or assume that someone else is helping.
  • You may feel frightened to approach the subject – you can’t predict the response you will get and you may fear the consequences of asking. You might be worried that you will make things worse, feel overwhelmed or unsure of what you can do to help.
  • You may have felt that should not say anything, should look the other way or physically intervene, potentially exposing yourself to violence.

There is, in fact, much more that you can do:

“You and the perpetrator are trapped in this world, just you and them. Somebody, anybody, from the outside world asking you a question …that could be your first lifeline”.

Lisa Marie, survivor

Those who have survived abuse are really clear that they want to be approached and asked if they need help, that they need to know that there are people around them who will be ready to help when the they are ready to make a change.

We’ve provided some advice about asking if someone needs help in a sensitive, safe way with links to more detailed advice on various forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Even if you don’t feel able to approach the person you are worried about, call the Live Fear Free helpline for advice on how you can take other action to help.

“Always brilliant, put my mind at rest. I feel like I’m doing something to help my sister. Has helped a lot”

“Brilliant that this service is available, gave me all the information I needed and more so thank you”

“Very helpful, just by talking it has given me a way to move forward”

Comments from people who have called the Live Fear Free helpline because they were concerned about other people .

Here Ann, who works for the helpline, explains what will happen when you call:


  • Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault and that you believe them.
  • Respect the person’s confidentiality and privacy.
  • Seek advice from the 24 hour Live Fear Free helpline if you are worried about someone.
  • Call the police if the person is in immediate danger.
  • Ask questions – survivors of abuse are clear that they want to be asked about their experience.
  • Consider if any children or other people are at risk and follow appropriate safeguarding procedures.
  • Listen to what they say and let them guide you as to how best to support them.


  • Do anything that may cause harm to you or other people.
  • Encourage anyone experiencing domestic abuse to leave – it might not feel that simple to them and leaving can be a very dangerous time. 
  • Tell a victim/survivor what is best for them. They may not always make the decisions you would want but they have the right to make their own choices. Instead be empathic, supportive and patient
  • Criticise the abuser or the relationship, focus on the abuse and their safety. 
  • Confront the abuser. You may be angry with them for what they’ve done but this may not help your friend and might put them and you in a dangerous situation. Always be led by the wishes and feelings of your friend.
  • Be judgemental or blame the person for the abuse they are experiencing. It is never their fault.

Making the ‘Don’t be a Bystander’ film

The script for the film was written in close partnership with survivors and experts in violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. 

Survivors have shared their stories with Julie James AM, Leader of the House and members of the Welsh Government. They were able to talk first hand about what this campaign means to them. Take a look at this behind the scenes film to see how the campaign was created:

For 24 hour advice and support call the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

Letting people know

Do you think a friend or family member needs help?

Find out how to spot the signs and symptoms and support someone in need of help.

Find out more

Advice for professionals

Advice for professionals

Find information, advice and training to help you provide support to people suffering with domestic abuse, violence against women or sexual violence.

Find out more


About Live Fear Free

Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

More information

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