Acting to prevent or address violence does not always look like one heroic act. There is action that you can safety take to fit the location, your own personal style, your relationship with the victim or abuser, and the situation witnessed.
Take action to help. It could save a life.
Step 1: Pay attention to the surroundings and people around you.
Look for attitudes and behaviours that put people down or that are aggressive, abusive or violent. Look for opportunities to intervene safely.
Step 2: Take smart and safe action.
You can help prevent abuse and violence by addressing harmful attitudes and behaviours.
Do not put your own safety at risk. If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, get help by calling 9-1-1.
- Remove yourself from a group (refuse to be an audience) to show that you disapprove of harmful attitudes or behaviours.
- Refuse to join in and discourage others from participating in abusive attitudes and behaviours. Point out the harmful, abusive, or violent behaviour you witness without passing judgment on the perpetrator.
- Speak out. “I don’t think that’s funny” or “What you are saying or doing is wrong.”
- Get support. Rally others nearby to join you. “I don’t accept this attitude or behaviour. It’s not okay with me. I hope it’s not okay with you either.”
- Get help. Know what resources are available nearby or in the community to help prevent and address abuse and violence.
You may be able to stop, interrupt or prevent abuse or violence by using safe and smart tactics to intervene.
- Be a good witness. Use words or your body to let the abuser and the targetted person know that you are paying attention. Make a point of noticing details of what is happening.
- Use distraction. If you witness someone being abused, ask the perpetrator for the time, clear your throat near them or do something else that distracts them from their behaviour.
- Stand with the targeted person. Stand physically near them so that they and the abuser both know they are not alone.
- Give control to the targetted person by speaking directly to them: “Are you okay?” “Are they bothering you?” Be ready to help if they ask for help, or to respect their choice if they don’t want help.
- Trust your instincts. If you think someone is in danger, or if you are in danger, get help from police or security – or call 9-1-1.
Make It Your Business
The Make It Your Business video series offers practical examples of how to recognize the signs of family violence in public places and workplaces and how to safely take action as a neighbour, friend, family member or co-worker. Watch the Make It Your Business videos
Services that can help
If you witness or suspect child abuse, it is mandatory to report it to Child Protection at 1-877-341-3101.
If you suspect abuse or neglect of an older person, contact Adult Protection at 902-892-4790.
- I See Signs of Violence or Abuse Happening Tip Sheet [PDF]