A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Bystander's Barriers to Intervene in Gender-Based Violence and the Role of Failed Prior Attempts

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2024 Jul;25(3):1998-2011. doi: 10.1177/15248380231204887. Epub 2023 Oct 30.


Gender-based violence (GBV) is a pervasive public health issue that harms victims. Bystanders' interventions are crucial in preventing the risks of GBV; however, numerous barriers impede their willingness and behaviors to intervene. As a part of efforts to thwart these barriers, this study used a systematic review and meta-analysis to identify such barriers and assess their impact on bystanders' engagement to intervene. The researchers explored academic databases and included 38 studies in the analysis; we extracted and coded the identified barriers (e.g., lack of responsibility, rape myth) and allocated them to six domains: failure to notice, failure to perceive risk, failure to take responsibility for engaging, lack of bystander efficacy/competency, failure to take an action, and failure of previous intervention attempts. We calculated the overall and domain-specific effect sizes (ES) and performed moderator analysis. The overall ES of the barriers identified in the review were small but statistically significant. The most potent bystander intervention barrier domain was failed previous intervention attempts; the greatest specific barriers therein were negative emotions and feelings of uncertainty after engaging in bystander behaviors. University/college populations were more vulnerable to barriers to intervention than community members. Moreover, the barriers were more prohibitive in incidents of violence against women and sexual assaults than in intimate partner violence. Bystander-focused programs that address negative emotions and feelings arising from prior intervention experiences are needed to foster continued bystander engagement and assistance in GBV; moreover, tailored program content should also be provided for groups most vulnerable to intervention barriers.

Keywords: bystander; gender-based violence; intimate partner violence; prevention; sexual assaults.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gender-Based Violence* / prevention & control
  • Gender-Based Violence* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male