Step Up!

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We asked ASU students whether they had observed the following situations during the past 12 months. and if so, had they intervened.  Of those who observed the situations:

  • 86% helped someone who was showing signs of distress to get help.
  • 76% stopped someone from bullying another person.
  • 80% helped someone avoid a potential sexual violence situation.
  • 64% called for medical assistance to help someone who was passed out from alcohol or drugs.

Some students worry Stepping Up might not be appreciated by the person they are trying to help. We asked ASU students how they would respond if they were a victim.

  • 84% said they would appreciate someone helping them in the above situations.

Sources: American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment: Arizona State University Metro Phoenix Campuses Spring 2018. Baltimore: American College Health Association; Spring 2018 (n=1,304).


To Step Up means to take action:

  • When you know something isn’t right
  • To promote someone else’s safety
  • When someone needs a helping hand or a kind word
  • Before something goes wrong or gets worse

Stepping Up ranges from small acts of kindness, like holding a door open for someone, to acts of heroism that may make a significant difference.

To Step Up means you will:

Notice the Event

  • Be fully present so that you can notice what is happening around you.
  • Be aware of your surroundings by looking around and listening.
  • Choose not to wear earbuds and be distracted by technology.
  • Pay attention to what is going on in the lives of people you care about.
  • If you are out with friends, keep track of each other.

Interpret the Event as a Problem

This step requires some quick thinking and empathizing. Ask yourself:

  • Does someone need help with a door or a situation?
  • Is someone being hurt through words or actions?
  • Is someone likely to be hurt if the situation continues?
  • Would you want someone to Step Up if you were in this situation?

Take Personal Responsibility

  • If you determine there is a problem, then decide to take responsibility to make it better.
  • Don’t walk away without taking the next step!

Decide How to Help

  • Decide how you will intervene.
  • Keep your personal safety in mind.
  • Direct, Distract, Delegate and/or Delay
  1. Being direct could mean simply asking someone to stop a behavior. This can be tricky when dealing with strangers and is better suited for people who know you well and trust you.
  2. Distract the people involved to avoid or deescalate a problem. This approach works particularly well with people who have been drinking alcohol.
  3. Delegate if any of the following applies:
    • You are concerned about your safety
    • You don’t want your role to be known
    • The situation requires expertise you don’t have
    • You are busy helping in another way.
      Delegate by :
    • Asking a friend to help
    • Reporting the incident to security.
    • Using the LiveSafe App while on campus
    • Calling 9-1-1 to get assistance from the police or an ambulance
  4. Delay the intervention to a more appropriate time by:
    • Having a private conversation later to tell a friend how offensive words or an offensive joke affected you
    • Setting a meeting time with a distressed friend to encourage them to seek professional help

Take Action

  • Now that you have decided what to do, take action. Step Up!

Stepping Up is Prosocial Behavior

Prosocial behavior is any act performed with the goal of benefitting another person. This includes helping, cooperating, and altruism.

Stepping Up Counteracts the Bystander Effect

The bystander effect is a phenomenon that occurs when the presence of other witnesses to a negative event discourages individual witnesses from taking action to help.

Why are people are less likely to help when there are other witnesses?

People look to those around them for cues on how to act, particularly if they are in a new situation. If no one else is taking action, a person may think the situation is not actually a problem or someone has already called for help. Another explanation is the responsibility to act is perceived as diffused among the people present. The more people, the less responsibility to act any one person feels.

Some common reasons people give for choosing not to Step Up

  • Assumed it wasn’t a problem
  • It is none of my business
  • Assumed someone else would do something
  • Didn’t know when/how to intervene safely
  • Felt my safety would be at risk
  • Afraid of confrontation
  • Worried I would be embarrassed

Other factors determining if people will Step Up

  • Individual characteristics of the witness: their skills, confidence, knowledge, sense of social responsibility.
  • Situational characteristics: severity of need, presence of others (bystander effect or diffusion), cost of helping (authority, conformity).

Situational characteristics are the most influential factors of whether or not people Step Up

  • Victim characteristics: appearance, their relationship to others present, perceived deservedness, acceptance of help

Why Step Up?

  • It is the right thing to do
  • Sun Devils look out for one another
  • To make the community a better, safer place for everyone
  • You would want someone to help you and your friends
  • To continue our evolution towards a kinder world
  • When leaders Step Up it gives permission for others to do so

The presence of individual leadership and shared responsibility is key to a thriving community. We are all part of a community both here at ASU and in our cities. We must take care of our communities as if we have built them with our own two hands.

The decisions we make to lead or share responsibility will confirm or create new unspoken rules we all live by. Take ownership and pride in what we can do individually and what we can accomplish together.

Do what is right, not what is easy.

Step Up ASU!

Step Up ASU! was adapted from the StepUp! Be a Leader, Make a Difference program at the University of Arizona with permission from Becky Bell.


Q: Would you pick up a piece a trash as you walked by?

Q: What would you do if you heard someone in your study group using derogatory language?

Q: What if you noticed someone being pressured into drinking?

Many who face situations like these don’t think they can do anything. You may want to act but don’t know how. If you know what to do, you will feel more confident taking action. The more often you Step Up and do something, the more confident you will become.

Has there been a time when you could have intervened in a problematic situation but didn’t and then later thought, “If only I would have done something, said something, talked to someone….”

Reflect on how you felt. Did your conscience nag you afterwards?

Build your skills and confidence to Step Up when you have an opportunity to make a difference.


We are a community of students, staff and faculty who care about the well-being of each other. Step Up when someone needs a hand, a word, a smile, support, resources, and especially when you have the potential to reduce harm.

Make the community a better place for your friends and other community members.

Remember to:

  • Notice the Event
  • Interpret the Event as a Problem
  • Take Personal Responsibility
  • Decide How to Help
    Use the four D’s to guide you: Direct, Distract, Delegate and/or Delay
  • Take Action

View the Step Up ASU You Tube video to learn more about the bystander effect and Stepping Up.

Adams, Bell & Griffin (1997) Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A sourcebook.

Step Up! is a program that many colleges and universities use to encourage prosocial intervention among their students. The program, tools and related topics are available online.

Sword, R.K.M. & Zimbadro, P. (May 31, 2016). Be a Hero: Stand up. Speak out. Change the World. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) is a nonprofit organization that teaches people how to take effective action in challenging situations.