The reason, experts say, is that it makes preventing harassment everybody’s responsibility. And it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. Most experts don’t recommend confronting the harasser in the moment. Instead, they offer bystanders, or witnesses, a range of options — so that they can choose the one they’re most comfortable with.
We asked the artist Lorraine Sorlet to illustrate a few of these interventions. Here are three of them.
1. Disrupt the Situation
Get the person out of it, or distract the harasser. This was the approach taken by Charles Sonder, fondly referred to as “Snackman,” after a widely shared video surfaced in which he defused a fight on the subway by standing between the combatants, eating chips.
2. Confront the Harasser
You can do this later, when the harasser is less likely to escalate the situation, by asking questions like: “Were you aware of how you came off in that conversation?” Researchers also suggest talking openly about inappropriate behavior, like asking colleagues: “Did you notice that? Am I the only one who sees it this way?”
3. Ask If They’re O.K.
It might seem obvious, but researchers say it’s crucial to check in with a victim and offer to help — like offering to go with them to H.R., if they want. “So many victims blame themselves, so a bystander saying, ‘This isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong,’ is really, really important,” said Sharyn Potter, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who runs a research group there for sexual violence prevention.
From Our Readers…
In our inaugural newsletter, we wrote that the #MeToo moment had become something larger: a lens through which we view the world. We’ve been collecting reader stories since then, and pulled together comments on sexual harassment trainings and bystander intervention. (Comments have been edited and condensed.)
We also want to hear from you: Was there a time you intervened as a bystander, or when someone jumped in on your behalf? What bystander intervention strategies have you employed? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Treat Others How You Want to Be Treated
In the end any session should wind up with the recognition that the age old dictum of: “Do not do to others that which you would not have done to you” still applies to all human interactions. For what it’s worth: In my career I have found myself in very uncomfortable situations with women in the workplace abusing their power both administratively as well as sexually. This is not a one-way-street. — George N. Wells, Dover, N.J.
What Constitutes Harassment?
We’re required to complete a series of online interactive training videos where I work (community college). What I found helpful was simply learning all the things that constitute harassment. I teach gender studies, yet there were things I learned and still think about. The whole thing is geared toward an assumed bystander viewer, which now that I think about it, is pretty clever. — J.S., New York
This Isn’t Complicated
There are plenty of very complex problems in this world. Sexual harassment isn’t one of them.
1. Don’t do it. Just don’t.
2. Fire people who do. Get rid of them. Nothing they contribute is as valuable as what they are taking away.
3. Be kind. Hire kind people and treat them kindly. Kindness is contagious and happy workers are better workers.
If I can expect my child to get through the day at school without creating an incident and my dog to leave my food on my plate alone, adults can be expected to behave appropriately toward one another at work. — S.L.M., Charleston, S.C.
Read more about ways to prevent sexual harassment that work here and sign up here to receive future installments of The #MeToo Moment newsletter.
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