Step TWO: Understand

Bullying, Abuse, Harassment & Discrimination: What Do I Do, If...

It Happens to Me

  • Abuse
  • Bullying & Harassment
  • Discrimination

I'm a Cultural Worker

  • Learning to spot bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination
  • Take considered action
  • Implement good policies
  • Promote resources

I'm a Parent

  • Learning to spot bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination
  • Speak to your child
  • Report any issues
  • Seek other support

I'm a Bystander


Sometimes you may witness bullying, abuse, harassment or discrimination right before your eyes.  You may know the person being treated disrespectfully, or you may just be somewhere nearby and overhear uncomfortable conversations or inappropriate actions and/or words.  As a bystander there are positive steps you can take to prevent bullying, address it while it’s happening and/or after it occurs.             

  • Learn to spot bullying, abuse, harassment or discrimination

If they have not been bullied themselves, many people will have had an experience of witnessing another person or group experiencing some form of bullying, abuse or harassment in a social setting, or in some cases online.  Depending on those involved, this bad behavior may also include discrimination based on a person’s race or gender.

Watch for these signs of bullying or harassment in social settings or in cyber settings (for both children and adults):

  • Uncalled for insults, demeaning remarks or name-calling;
  • Gossiping or spreading rumors designed to harm another’s reputation;
  • Planned avoidance of an individual;
  • Threats of harm to an individual or messages of intimidation; and
  • Purposely leaving people out of a group or denying inclusion.

Bullying can be among children or youth, or among adults in social settings

If you suspect ongoing abuse or harassment, watch individuals for:

  • Unexplained absences;
  • Changes in demeanor;
  • Unexplained bruises, marks or other injuries;

Check out 6 signs of people who have been abused for more information.

If you are sensing discrimination, watch for:

  • Individuals being left out of programs
  • Individuals treated differently from others in group activity;
  • Inequities in service to different individuals based any grounds covered by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
  • Assess the situation

Watching another person being bullied/harassed can have huge impact on a bystander.  It creates a range of emotions and stresses, including anxiety, fear, uncertainty and guilt, which can have an emotional toll on any individual. These emotions may create a reluctance to get involved for fear of retaliation or loss of social status.

Bystander Effect: When on person witnesses bullying, that one person is likely to help the victim, but in a group of three or more, people are less likely to step forward ad help. In a group, no one feels like it is there responsibility to take action, and when no one steps forward, others feel justified in doing nothing.

In many cases, bystanders can make an important difference.  According to one study, when bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds, 57% of the time.  If a bystander steps in, other people are more likely to step in too.  According to Kids Help Phone, sometimes teens are more likely to convince each other to stop bullying than adult intervention.  Those willing to step in, when it is safe to do so, help make communities and schools safer places for everyone.

For more information, visit How witnessing bullying impacts bystanders.or What to Do If you Witness Bullying.

  • Take action when needed

When you notice a situation where bullying, harassment, abuse or discrimination is taking place, assess the safety of the situation, and if appropriate, take the opportunity to respond.

  • Avoid joining in or laughing or perpetuating any comments

Sometimes our eagerness to fit into a social setting makes it difficult for us to stand out; but, but it is important to make it clear that the bullying or other actions are inappropriate – in the moment.

If you are witnessing cyberbullying, do your best, within your means, to stop the circulation of any inappropriate messages and images.​​​​​​​

  • Help the victim walk away

If it is possible, move toward the victim and help the individual get out the immediate situation.  If not possible, sit or stand with the victim to show your support.  Even if you don’t really know the person, standing beside them may reduce the single focus of the aggressor, and it will also provide the victim with some much needed support.​​​​​​​

  • Tell the aggressor to stop

Speaking up can be scary, but it is very helpful in de-escalating a bullying situation.  Many times aggressors are feeding off of what they feel is a supportive crowd.  Use your voice and say “stop”. Even one person pointing out bullying behaviour can make a group feel uncomfortable and less supportive. (Sometimes people don’t always recognize bullying behaviour unless someone speaks up and points it out).

If the situation is discriminatory, speak up and explain the factors in a situation where someone may be discriminated against, and if they may “grounds” in the Human Rights Code identified by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

  • Request other bystanders to step up

More voices pointing out bad behaviour is even better.  Invite others to step forward in stopping any bullying behavior.  A group show of support, will create an environment when most aggressors will walk away.

If a situation escalates, that is the time for the victim, and possibly you as a bystander, to leave the immediate area, or what can be referred to as the bully’s stage.​​​​​​​

  • Get immediate help to address situation

Sometimes just asking will not stop a situation, so additional help may be required.  If activity is taking place on a playground or in a lesson, call a teacher or instructor.  If activity is taking place in a public space, and behavior turns threatening, the authorities – organizers, security guards, police officers - may need to be called.

Use your cell phone to call for help, or film some of the situation to help explain to authorities.

  • Listen and support

    • Make sure the victim is okay

Depending on the severity of the situation, the victim may need additional resources to determine their next steps or course of action.  If the victim is a child or youth, encourage them to speak to parents or guardians, or in some cases call the Kids Help Phone.  If the victim is an adult, encourage them to find appropriate community resources.

    • Follow up, if appropriate.

If the victim is an acquaintance, colleague or someone known in your community, check in on them if appropriate.  Acknowledge that bullying and harassment can have a huge toll on mental health and long-term quality of life, and victims should be connected into a social network of their choosing.  If you are uncertain of the steps you should take, contact the SaskCulture Respect Resource Line at 1-888-329-4009.

  • Report any issues

​​​​​​​If the situation is mainly focused on bullying, and activity organizers are unaware, it is important:

  • Report issues of bullying or harassment to activity organizers

Report the situation to organizers; however, if the victim wishes to remain anonymous, respect his/her/their wishes and keep your details of bullying generic.  Activity organizers can watch for any future situations, change group dynamics and act accordingly.

Cyberbullying provides its own challenges.  Encourage victims to report it to the organization, school, Internet Service Provider, social media sites, and the police, as appropriate.  If a situation involves the release of sexual photos or videos, visit to identify available resources and get advice.

  • Report possible physical or sexual abuse

If the situation includes abuse or harassment, further actions may be needed. Whether the abuse is between children/youth or by adults, it is your responsibility to the police (you may also wish to inform activity organizers). 

Child protection laws in Saskatchewan state that anyone who knows or suspects that a child is being abused must report this to the appropriate child protection or criminal justice authority.

  • Espalage, D., Pigott, T., Polanin, J. (2012) "A Meta‐Analysis of School‐Based Bullying Prevention Programs’ Effects on Bystander Intervention Behavior." School Psychology Review, Volume 41, No. 1, 47–65.​​​​​​​