The Who are You? campaign: targeting “ethical bystanders”

The Who are You? campaign addresses the roles of “ethical bystanders” in the prevention of sexual assaults. The campaign was introduced in New Zealand in 2012 by a group of agencies including the Wellington Sexual Abuse Network, police, and Regional Public Health. It was specifically aimed at students entering their first year of university and was part of a toolkit distributed to universities. The website (link) features an 8 minute video presenting a case where a woman is out with friends and friends of friends and becomes heavily intoxicated. She is then taken advantage of by a man, who appears to be a friend of a friend, and is sexually assaulted. The scenario plays out with several scenes and then begins to rewind through those scenes to show how “you can be the difference in how the story ends”. It presents the actions that could have be taken by friends and bystanders (e.g. the friend, the stranger, the bartender) to prevent the assault.

This social marketing campaign does a good job in heightening viewers’ interest in the subject matter and seeing sexual assault from perhaps a broader perspective as it advocates for the responsibility of preventing a possibly unsafe situation to lie among all individuals. I decided to look further into the concept of an “ethical bystander” and came across an article by Lynch & Fleming (2005) which discussed the empowerment of students to model ethical sexual behaviours. They define ethical intervention as “engaging in behavior that follows a moral code and evaluating actions on the basis of a broader cultural context” (Lynch & Fleming, 2005, p27).  While “ethical bystanders” are said to “not only be aware of the social problem [sexual assault], and understand its negative effect on the victim, but also they must feel that they are a part of the system that creates the problem and therefore assume responsibility to create change” (Lynch & Fleming, 2005, p29). Sexual assault/violence prevention programs that are based on the concept of the “ethical bystander” aim to address the social norms that lead to the allowance of the occurrence of such behaviour. This is what the Who are You? campaign attempts to achieve- the awareness of one’s (ethical) responsibilities in a situation of sexual assault, or one that may lead to sexual assault. Is it successful? (As of yet, there has been no evaluation of the effectiveness of the campaign .  What factors affect whether we act the role of ethical bystander? (e.g. our own safety).

For further interest: There are several bystander education prevention programs that have shown to be successful, such as the Bringing in the Bystander program which teaches US college students safe ways of addressing sexual assault; and, the Mentors in Violence Prevention program which uses student leaders and athletes to address men’s roles in gender violence prevention (NSVRC, 2011). There is also the Bringing in the Bystander training program offered at the University of Windsor that trains peer facilitators to then run the program for the incoming students. Other social marketing campaigns include the Know Your Power Campaign, which portrays appropriate options for bystanders’ intervention behaviours (NSVRC, 2011).


Lynch, A., Fleming, W.M. (2005). Bystander approaches: empowering students to model ethical sexual behavior. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, 97(3), 27-32

NSVRC. (2011). It’s time…to incorporate the bystander approach into sexual violence prevention. Retrieved from




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