4. Ways to step up
and speak out

We all have different styles when it comes to Stepping up and Speaking out. Here are some ideas you could use to Step up and Speak out. You might choose to do just one of these, or you could try a combination of ideas.

Remember - it’s important to choose whatever suits you and the situation best. To help you decide which might be best, look down this page, pick a strategy and keep safe. Always think about your safety first. If a person reacts badly to one strategy, check your safety again and try another one.

If in doubt about your safety call for help instead: if it’s an emergency call 111 for Police, Ambulance or Fire, or get a teacher, caregiver, family member, social worker, or any adult you trust to help you.


Let the person know you’re not okay with what they’re doing and, if you can, tell them why. Tell them how it also affects you having to see or listen to disrespectful stuff. Be friendly about it. Then show your support to the person they’ve been targeting - this is another way of saying that the way they’re behaving is not okay.


  • Telling someone you’re not okay with something they’re doing can be really tough. Sometimes instead of saying something straight away, you need to pick the right moment, sometimes in private might be best.
  • If you don’t really know the person who’s being disrespectful then maybe you could find one of their friends and see if they can step up and speak out instead. Even though it can be safer if friends are delivering the message, it can sometimes be a lot harder for them to do – it’s still worth asking them about it.
  • Teaming up can be helpful here too, but only if you’re not going to be too confronting to the person you’re going to approach.


Using a distraction can be a great way to move people’s focus to something else - you can get creative with this one too.


Suggest moving on from where they are, going somewhere better, say you need their help, say you need them to come with you to do something, make loud noises, use humour, do weird things like making funny shapes or sounds, crank the music up, start a dance-off, spill your drink or whatever might work to shift their attention away from the person they’re harming.


Break it up, split ’em up, however you do it, get people away from each other. Use any combination of safe strategies to make this happen and take a friendly but firm approach. Once people are split up, check in with the person being targeted and then with the person being harmful. Talk to both people, support the person who was being disrespected and say what you need to say to the person who was being disrespectful. WARNING. Only do this on your own if you know enough about the people involved, how they’ll react and you think you can handle it safely.


Avoid violence and keep yourself safe. Splitting up is best done in a team.


Get a team together to step up and speak out. Use whatever strategy works best for the team and the situation. Teaming up is a powerful way to let people know that something is not okay.


Sometimes you might be the only one who cares about what’s going on. Stepping up and speaking out when nobody else seems bothered by what they are seeing or hearing can be scary. Remember the bystander effect? Sad but true – it’s common for people to avoid stepping up and speaking out when others are standing around not helping out. Talk to people, check out what they think, ask them to help you step up and speak out safely. If you can, try and get friends of both people involved as well.


Let the person who is on the receiving end of the violent or disrespectful behaviour know that you have their back. Tell them they have your support, ask them how you can help, tell them you don’t think the way they’re being treated is okay... or whatever fits for you.


Think of how you can show your support for them or something positive to say. It could be something to make them laugh, a compliment about them - be creative. Remember to stay aware of your safety - when you support someone you are taking a side, so think about whether it might be best done in private, or after a bit of time.


To make things harder, there might be people supporting or encouraging the harmful or disrespectful behaviour. Maybe team up with your friends, family or others, and pick a strategy to stop people supporting the behaviour.


This is a tough one - stepping up and speaking out against a group of people takes a lot of guts. It can have a really powerful impact though - you’re sending a really clear message to lots of people that what they’re supporting is not okay.

You could just distract them so they move their attention away from what they’re supporting. Either way, this is usually best in a team unless you’ve thought about your safety and are 100% confident that you will be safe no matter how they respond.


If it’s not possible to step up and speak out safely and/or if the situation needs people with specific skills or more authority - then make sure you get help. Try and tell people clearly what is going on and be specific about what help you are asking for. If it is an emergency call 111 - Police, Fire or Ambulance, whatever you need. If it’s not an emergency ask for help from people like teachers, parents, caregivers, social workers, older peers, neighbours, shop-keepers, coaches or anyone who you think could help.


Sometimes you have to ask for help from people you may not want to have around, for example from your parents or the Police. Sometimes it might be because of stuff people have been doing when or before the Police arrived (like under age drinking or drugs), sometimes it might be because you’ve had bad experiences with the cops before, or maybe just because you think your parents will go nuts if they knew what was happening... The truth is, the majority of cops in New Zealand will come and do their job respectfully if a situation needs them there in order to stop harmful behaviour.

Sometimes, if someone is being harmed and the Police need to be called, others may get attention from the cops too - but they might just have to suck it up and deal so everyone can be safe.