Witness an AAPI hate crime? Intervene to keep the streets safe by practicing the ‘5Ds’

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Learn how to intervene as a bystander. Illustration courtesy of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles.

Two elderly Asian women were stabbed while waiting at a San Francisco bus stop earlier this month. Blurry security camera footage showed the unprovoked assault in action, and it has renewed already heightened fears.

It was just one of many recent acts of hate against  the Asian American Pacific Islander community nationwide.

A bystander intervention initiative was recently launched by the civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA (AAAJ-LA) in partnership with Hollaback!, a nonprofit working to address harassment. Alongside a series of trainings, they’ve  debuted a PSA narrated by actor Ken Jeong and illustrated by award-winning artist James Yang.

Ken Jeong narrates a 90-minute PSA on AAPI hate bystander intervention. Credit: Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles

“When we talk about bystander intervention training …  we're saying we all need to do our part to keep the streets safe for all of us, so that seniors can walk down the street or take their daily walk to the park and feel like they're not going to be attacked,” says Connie Chung Joe, CEO of AAAJ-LA. 

What can I do if I witness an act of hate? 

AAAJ-LA and Hollaback! have introduced the “5Ds” strategies: distract, delegate, document, delay and direct. They’re meant for situations of verbal harassment that haven’t risen to physical violence. 

“When you follow these ‘5Ds,’ it helps you as a bystander know how to safely intervene in order to de-escalate a situation,” says Chung Joe.

She adds, “What they're intended to do is if you start to see something brewing or you start to hear something that sounds like there might be some harassment or an escalation of verbal bullying or harassment, what you can do to help bring that down and de-escalate it.”

1. Distract: 

This strategy  creates a diversion, which can happen in the form of talking to the victim during the event, or finding another way to draw attention away from them. 

“Pretend to drop your … cup of coffee or your change on the floor as you're passing by. … Everyone's going to stop and look around and see what happened. And that's sometimes all you need to just break that moment in order to diffuse the conflict or provide the victim with an opportunity to kind of go away,” says Chung Joe. 

2. Delegate:

“This means find a person of authority and bring them in to help,” says Chung Joe. This type of strategy can be helpful on buses and trains, or in other public environments.

“If you were to witness somebody starting to raise their voices at an Asian on the bus, delegate is the strategy by which you go up to the bus driver and you say, ‘Hey, there's something happening back here, you need to pull over and deal with this situation.’ Or in a restaurant, you get the manager, or a shopping mall, you might go to a security guard.”

3. Document: 

This involves taking account of the details of what is happening, such as recording the incident with your phone. But don’t post the incident publically without first getting the permission of the victim. 

4. Delay:

“Delay means what you do after the incident has finished,” says Chung Joe. This involves how you would interact with the victim and give them support. 

For example, Chung Joe says when an Asian victim had been verbally harassed, they might be scared about walking through the parking lot to their car because the perpetrator might be waiting there. 

“So delay is the strategy of afterwards going up to the victim asking, ‘Hey, are you OK?’ And offering to sit with them until the police or friend or family arrives, or offering to make a call for them or escorting them somewhere,” says Chung Joe. 

5. Direct:

You must first assess that it is safe before doing this tep. This strategy means you would directly confront the perpetrator or harasser. 

“For example, with the woman at LAX who saw a passenger verbally harassing his Uber or Lyft driver, and she directly went up to him and said, ‘Hey, you need to stop doing this. This is not right,” says Chung Joe. 

Sign up for free video training 

AAAJ-LA has just launched free Zoom training on bystander intervention tactics here. “We have them basically every week these days. There are one-hour free virtual training videos, and you can register on our site,” says Chung Joe.



Larry Perel


Tara Atrian