While many harassers only harass others when they are alone or they harass them in such a way that no one else realizes what is happening, there are many times when they do blatantly harass in front of others. Over and over individuals who have been harassed felt shocked or betrayed when no one around stopped to help. Having a bystander say or do something could make a big difference in ending the harassment scenario, helping the victim not feel alone and safe, and making it clear that the harassing behavior is socially unacceptable.
What to do:
- Ask the victim: “Is someone bothering you?”
- That question alone may deter a harasser who believes no one will intervene. If the victim says yes and the harasser does not leave or persists harassing, tell the harasser to stop or call for assistance (from police, a transit authority worker, or other people nearby).
- If you see someone who has been verbally or physically abused, you can ask that person if there is anything you can do to help. If they say no, leave, because you do not want to be another person intruding on their space. If they say yes, try to help them as best you can.
- Sometimes it’s best not to address the man/group harassing the female. Simply offering a presence can deter harassment.
What to say to the harasser:
Distractions and indirect interventions can help: Asking for directions, asking for the time, or other innocuous questions can often be enough of a distraction for a harasser to go away and move on, without causing a big scene or putting anyone in physical danger.
Make an all-purpose anti-harassment statement.
“Stop harassing women/people. She/They doesn’t like it. No one likes it. Show some respect.” Speak it in a neutral but assertive tone.
We think that bystanders are important in the fight against street harassment and other forms of gender-based violence. We’re involved in the international ‘I’ve Got Your Back!//Arkani Kolluyorum!” campaign, which is a program that recognizes successful bystander interventions and provides helpful tips on the changes we can make. Check out our video and our Green Dot Campaign.