Heart shaped gummy candy assorted in rows with one candy asideWe can be whoever we are wherever we are

Our clothing is part of our identity. Our clothes express our styles and our personalities, and can be a fun way to add a bit of colour and feel empowered.

Where we celebrate being our individual selves (and rightly so) there are unfortunately people in the world who, out of fear, control, and their own insecurities, will harass others that they don't identify with. Harassment can come in the form of any unwanted advance, be it verbal or physical.

We should be able to be whoever we are wherever we are, without the fear of being harassed.

As a bystander, what can you do?

For me, whether I am the victim, or if I see harassment taking place to someone else, I freeze. Because I don't know what to do for fear of making things worse. 

I recently joined a webinar training session in 'Bystander Training - Stand Up to Harassment.' The short session was incredibly helpful giving me tools to use not only as a bystander, but also as a victim. I felt empowered and knew I wanted to share this with you.

It can take courage to be the first person to do something but the bystander effect can occur, allowing other people to feel they can also help and intervene. Only if you feel safe to do so, follow the five D's :

  • Distract - pretend you know the person being harassed, go up to them and say "sorry I'm late, shall we go now". On public transport, ask questions like "do you have the time", "what's the next stop". Or create a distraction like dropping a book, or some coins between them, or if possible, stand between them to create a barrier. You are not engaging with the harasser, and are letting the victim know that you see what is going on. Creating a distraction can be enough for the harasser to stop what they are doing.
  • Delegate - if you don't feel you are able to help, ask someone else, eg. "The person in the red shirt is following them/me, can you help"? Or tell/ask a person in authority such as a member of staff, bus driver, security guard.
  • Document - if others are already assisting, and the victim is safe, keep a safe distance and document the incident including date, time, landmarks. If filming, remember you are filming for purposes of reporting and not for sharing on social media. 
  • Delay - After the incident, check in with the person who has been harassed. "Are you okay", "Can I sit with you", "Can I accompany you somewhere until you feel safe", "What do you need", "Do you want me to report to the police".
  • Direct - Assess your safety first. If safe, tell the person "You're being inappropriate", "Stop touching me/them". Set the boundary and do not engage with the harasser. Turn to the person being harassed and ask if they are okay, or if they want to leave. 

If street harassment happens to you

  • Know that harassment is NEVER your fault.
  • It is not your responsibility to have the perfect response, it is their responsibility not to harass you.
  • Trust your instincts, whether you choose to take action in the moment or later. This can be talking to your friends about it, telling yourself that you are strong, taking time for yourself whether to breathe, exercise etc.
  • Reclaim your space. Setting a boundary such as "stop doing that, I don't like it" or "it's not appropriate". Announce what is happening "this person is harassing me". Document what is happening should you choose to report it later.
  • Practice resilience. There's strength in recognising it hurts. Don't pretend it didn't happen. Tell your friends and family, share what happened. Take time for yourself. 

The above are only small examples of what can happen, and what you can do. Remember, situations vary and ALWAYS assess your safety first. 

Bystander intervention is important. For the person being harassed, it means that "someone's got your back", it means you are not invisible. This helps immensely in healing.

People take care of each other.

I took part in a Stand Up Against Harassment training course, a free 1-hour webinar. These are available to book throughout the year, focusing on the 5 D’s of bystander intervention, which was originally pioneered by Right To Be.

This is a global programme, aiming to train over 1.5 million people worldwide. It drives awareness of street harassment with a call-to-action for a change in how public harassment is perceived, enabling those who witness it to feel confident to intervene as well as provide support to those being harassed. Training is open to everyone at: Stand Up Against Harassment training courses




Photo by: Karolina Grabowska @ Pexels

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