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What is Step Up Step In?

Step Up Step In is led by the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA). Step Up Step In is a collaborative movement that engages schools and communities to identify and stop sexual bullying from occurring between youth. The goal is to stop the potential for escalating sexual violence. This campaign is typically facilitated by educators, administrators, and other adults who collaborate with youth serving organizations.



A brief history

Step Up Step In began as a collaborative effort between the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault in 2015. Based on statistics from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), DPH and GNESA determined that sexual bullying was prevalent in Georgia. Focus groups were conducted with teens to identify key challenges, and the campaign was designed to address these challenges. As of August 2022, Step Up Step In is being implemented in 18 middle and high schools throughout Georgia and partners are looking to expand the work into other schools and youth serving organizations.


Why implement Step Up Step In?

The purpose of Step Up Step In is to prevent teen sexual bullying and provide information on how to safely intervene during an incident of teen sexual bullying. Using knowledge and skills gained during the campaign, students begin making a cultural change.


What past facilitators have said

  • "SUSI has always been the school’s most impactful awareness campaign. The reason is due to the fact that this topic is so prevalent and detrimental to youth in their everyday interactions at home, school and in their personal relationships."
  • "The school had fresh new ideas that we would love to build on next year. One idea was to help spread the awareness and information to other schools. I was very impressed with our group this year and look forward to the improvements for next year!"
  • "The SUSI program is awesome …[it needs] a bigger platform to boost the program to the point that every school has it in our district."

Bystander Intervention

What is Bystander intervention?

Bystander intervention is a crucial strategy in preventing sexual bullying in schools/youth serving organizations. Through bystander intervention strategies, casual observers of sexual bullying become engaged in the fight to stop it.

Active bystanders are educated about the issue. They understand cultural and societal factors that have “normalized” sexual bullying. These behaviors are misleading and harmful to their friends and peers who are victimized by these behaviors.

Who is a Bystander?

A bystander is an individual who is standing near and observes a situation but does not become involved in it. They literally “stand by” while an act occurs.

Sign the Pledge

Sign The Anti-Sexual Bullying Pledge

Sign the Step Up Step In pledge to commit to stopping sexual bullying – and to helping others who are victimized by it

School Students

Research & Statistics

  • Although most adolescents could not define “sexual harassment,” most could describe behavior they had witnessed or experienced that clearly fell within the continuum of those behaviors.
  • Touching and groping, sexual rumors (especially among girls), and bullying of perceived LGBTQ+ youth were among the most frequently reported acts – with many participants stating this was a “daily” or “almost every day” occurrence at their schools.
  • Participants overwhelmingly reported the school and school-related venues as the primary locations where sexual bullying occurs, with hallways, lunchrooms, playgrounds, athletic stadiums, and buses being among the most popular places cited – locations where students congregate with minimal supervision
  • Youth often dismissed sexual bullying – such as touching and groping or teasing a student for his/her/their perceived sexual orientation – as “not that serious,” “joking,” and even “flirting.”
  • Many adults admitted they never considered many of the offending behaviors as sexual bullying – they perceived it as a normal part of being an adolescent or teen.

The 2013 Georgia Youth Risk Behavior Survey Findings


More than 12% of Georgia high school students who are dating (seriously or casually) were physically hurt on purpose by someone they were dating.


Nearly 14% of Georgia high school students have been bullied electronically.


More than 18% of Georgia middle school students have been bullied electronically.


of Georgia high school students have been bullied on school property.


of Georgia middle school students have been bullied on school property.

Join The Campaign

Get Started with Step Up Step In

Use the guidance throughout this website, as well as prepared resources, to bring Step Up Step In to your school! Schools are encouraged to implement Step Up Step In however they feel will best motivate the students and communities they serve. This section of the toolkit provides ideas and resources we anticipate you will utilize – although you and your students will likely create other ideas. Be creative! If you need additional support or recommendations, contact the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault at info@gnesa.org

To Get Started, You Need

Support From Leadership

For a cultural shift to occur, Step Up Step In should be supported by top officials. Leadership/administrators are important allies to achieving change. Buy-in and support is very valuable.

This is a person in the community in a position of power, such as a Mayor or President of a local company. Seeing a powerful person delivering a message about sexual bullying can highlight its prevalence and encourage youth engagement.

Appoint an adult to lead Step Up Step In. This person is in charge of leading the program but might want a small team of other adults to assist in delivering the program.

Youth Ambassadors

Culture will truly begin to change when youth see their peers participating in the positive behavior that Step Up Step In promotes. Take the program to an existing youth serving organization that is seeking an opportunity to make a difference. Or create a Step Up Step In Ambassador Team comprised of youth of various ages and walks of life to become the on-the-ground presence the campaign needs to succeed. 

Implementation Announcements

After deciding to implement Step Up Step In, you may want to use the following documents to make your team aware of the campaign and to gain support for the project.

  • Sending an email to teachers, colleagues and staff from an administrator announcing the decision to become a Step Up Step In school or youth serving organization can generate interest and excitement.
  • Providing an FAQ answers preliminary questions about the campaign.
  • Including a single point of contact (likely your Step Up Step In Ambassador) makes it easy for anyone to ask questions.
  • Addressing the school's/organization's participation in an open meeting format, such as a staff meeting, allows for two-way communication about the campaign.

  • Sending an email or letter to parents from a leadership/administrator announcing the decision to become a Step Up Step In participating school/organization helps adults understand the issue.
  • Providing an FAQ document answers parents’ preliminary questions about the campaign.
  • Providing parents with a single point of contact (likely your Step Up Step In Ambassador) makes it easy for them to ask questions.
  • Posting the letter to parents on your website – including the FAQ and Step Up Step In logo can help answer questions and address any concerns.
  • Sending a press release to your local newspaper about your participation in the program lets the community know you are committed to this issue.
  • Posting social media announcements to your school’s/organization’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter reaches youth and the community.
Assembly & Rally Content

Set the stage for a school/organization that is free from sexual bullying! Assemble youth to arm them with the knowledge and skills they need to stop sexual bullying – and how to react if it happens to them or a friend or other youth.

A sample program agenda gives guidance on how you may want to structure your assembly – along with prepared speaker's remarks and a Customizable Presentation – that will help you introduce Step Up Step In to your school/organization. You may also want to consider the following ideas:

  • Limit the program to one hour to maintain attention.
  • Ask administrators to participate to demonstrate support.
  • Include a main speaker who connects to youth and captures their attention – this may be a teacher, another professional within the school/organization, or an invited guest from the community.
  • Look for safe ways to begin a dialogue with youth,such as an anonymous Q&A where youth can submit written questions and the speaker answers those questions from the stage. Anonymity is key to encouraging youth participation.
  • Use age-appropriate popular music to open and close the assembly – to start and close the program on an energetic foot.
  • Ask team members to participate in a skit that shows youth how to stop sexual bullying. The content/message of the skit can be unique to the most common problems your school/organization faces.
  • Close the assembly with a Call to Action that encourages youth to sign a Step Up Step In Pledge, where they commit to stopping sexual bullying – and to helping others who are victimized by it.
Getting the Word Out

Placing prevention messages around the school/organization can help decrease sexual bullying. To help your school/organization take part in this effort, Step Up Step In provides a series of flyers that can be printed and hung in key places around your facilities.

The messages remind youth throughout the course of their days about the dangers of engaging in sexual bullying – and empowers them to help others who are victimized by it.

Data collected in Georgia found that sexual bullying occurs most frequently when students are congregated in small or large groups with minimal supervision. These findings backed up national research.

Consider hanging the Step Up Step In flyers in areas where youth are more likely to engage in the behavior – and likely to see the message when it matters most – such as:

  • Hallways
  • Cafeterias
  • Outdoor areas where youth congregate
  • Athletic facilities
  • Classrooms
  • Administrative offices
  • Lounge areas
Youth Activity

Four to six weeks after the assembly, announce a Step Up Step In Youth Essay Contest that encourages youth to write down their changed views on sexual bullying. The Essay Contest will help you gauge what participants have learned through your initiatives – and to identify how youths’ perceptions, opinions, and behaviors have changed.

To announce the contest, determine through what channel it would best be communicated to students – e.g. in homeroom, in a specialized class, to specialized grade levels, group meetings/events.

Then provide written Contest Overview and Essay Guidelines – such as word counts (keep it short to maximize participation!) and general themes youth can utilize as starting points. Your customized materials should include deadline and submission requirements.

From there, allow ample time (three to four weeks) for youth to put their thoughts onto paper. Remind them during the development period about the contest and encourage participation. Social media can also be utilized to communicate the initiative to youth and other audiences. Be sure to offer a prize, which could be anything from gift cards to local restaurants and movie theaters to items with school or organizations logos.

Once essays are collected, a judging panel – which could include teachers, administrators, leadership, parents, and other supporters – reviews entries and selects first-, second-, and third-place winners.