To stay silent or to blow the whistle? Bystander’s intervening acts when witnessing intimate partner violence (IPV)

Griffin, Abby and Worthington, Rachel Elizabeth (2023) To stay silent or to blow the whistle? Bystander’s intervening acts when witnessing intimate partner violence (IPV). Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research . ISSN 1759-6599

[thumbnail of AAM]
PDF (AAM) - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.


Official URL:


Social psychology has focused on an individual’s reaction to emergencies and witnessing a crime, which has developed theories of bystander intervention and bystander apathy. The purpose of this study is to explore why people choose to intervene when they are a bystander to intimate partner violence (IPV) and the psychological processes that underpin this. Decision-making was explored drawing on literature from the whistleblowing field.

Through a mixed methods epistemology, this study explored factors that explained intervening behaviour concerning IPV. In total, 212 participants who had known someone who was a victim of IPV were recruited from the general population.

A logistic regression model indicated that conscientiousness and fairness were found to predict intervening behaviour. Being a child witness was found to predict non-intervening behaviour. Qualitative analysis revealed three types of bystander apathy: those who lacked capability as they were children; those who were indifferent and did not see it as their place to intervene; and those who wanted to intervene but did not as they were frightened of exacerbating the situation.

Practical implications
IPV has significant physical and psychological effects on victims. However, the choice to intervene is complex, and bystander intervention in this study was also associated in some cases with not only a continuation of the IPV behaviour towards the victim but also aggression and physical violence towards the bystander (whistleblower retaliation). Based on the findings of this study, recommendations are made for how to support bystanders and victims of IPV.

This study involved participants with real-life experience of being a bystander to IPV. The mixed methodology provided an insight into the psychological processes, which underpin bystander experiences of IPV and maps onto the literature in relation to whistleblowing.

Repository Staff Only: item control page