RESPONDING AS A BYSTANDER
What’s worse than being targeted with harassment because of your race, sex, religion, color, gender, size, orientation, disability, age, or origin? Being targeted while surrounded by bystanders who see what is happening, but then do nothing.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
At this moment in history, we are witnessing a spike in public harassment, bias incidents, and hate violence. As bystanders, we need to be especially vigilant and aware of what harassment, bias incidents, and hate violence look like in order to be able to stand up and intervene at a time when people need it most.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE D’S?
Hollaback! partnered with the bystander program Green Dot to develop tools to help you intervene when you see harassment happen on the street and in other public spaces. We’ve got guidance for you in the form of the Five D’s.
You can make a choice to actively and visibly take a stand against harassment. The Five D’s are different methods you can use to support someone who’s being harassed, emphasize that harassment is not okay, and demonstrate to people in your life that they too have the power to make the community safer.
You may want to directly respond to harassment by naming what is happening or confronting the harasser. This tactic can be risky: the harasser may redirect their abuse towards you and may escalate the situation. Before you decide to respond directly, assess the situation: Are you physically safe? Is the person being harassed physically safe? Does it seem unlikely that the situation will escalate? Can you tell if the person being harassed wants someone to speak up? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, you might choose a direct response.
If you choose to directly intervene, some things you can say to the harasser are:
- “That’s inappropriate, disrespectful, not okay, etc.”
- “Leave them alone.”
- “That’s homophobic, racist, (insert type of harassment), etc.”
The most important thing here is to keep it short and succinct. Try not engage in dialogue, debate, or an argument, since this is how situations can escalate. If the harasser responds, try your best to assist the person who was targeted instead of engaging with the harasser.
Direct intervention can be risky, so use this one with caution.
Distraction is a subtler and more creative way to intervene. The aim here is simply to derail the incident by interrupting it. The idea is to ignore the harasser and engage directly with the person who is being targeted. Don’t talk about or refer to the harassment. Instead, talk about something completely unrelated. You can try the following:
- Pretend to be lost. Ask for the time. Pretend you know the person being harassed. Talk to them about something randomand take attention off of the harasser.
- Get in the way. Continue what you were doing, but get between the harasser and the target.
- Accidentally-on-purpose spill your coffee or make a commotion.
Of course, read the situation and choose your Distract method accordingly. The person who is being targeted will likely catch on, and hopefully your act or statement will de-escalate the situation.
Delegation is when you ask for assistance, for a resource, or for help from a third party. Here are examples of what you can do:
- Find the store supervisor, bus driver, or a transit employee and ask them to intervene.
- If you’re near a school, contact a teacher or someone at the front desk. On a college campus, contact campus security or someone at the front desk of a university building.
- Get your friend on board and have them use one of the methods of Distraction (eg. asking for the time, directions, or striking up a conversation unrelated to the harassment) to communicate with the person being harassed while you find someone to delegate to.
- Speak to someone near you who notices what’s happening and might be in a better position to intervene. Work together.
- Call 311 or 911 (if it is safe) to request help. Before contacting 911, use Distract to check in with the person being targeted to make sure they want you to do this. Some people may not be comfortable or safe with the intervention of law enforcement. For many people and communities, a history of being mistreated by law enforcement has led to fear and mistrust of police interventions, and under the current climate, there are many communities, such as undocumented individuals, who may feel less safe in the hands of police. In certain situations, you may not be able to get to the person in which case, depending on the situation, you will need to use your best judgement.
Even if you can’t act in the moment, you can make a difference for the person who has been harassed by checking in on them after the fact. Many types of harassment happen in passing or very quickly, in which case you can wait until the situation is over and speak to the person who was targeted then. Here are some ways to actively use the tactic of Delay:
- Ask them if they’re okay and tell them you’re sorry that happened to them.
- Ask them if there’s any way you can support them.
- Offer to accompany them to their destination or sit with them for awhile.
- Share resources with them and offer to help them make a report if they want to.
- If you’ve documented the incident, ask them if they want you to send it to them.
It can be really helpful to record an incident as it happens to someone, but there are a number of things to keep in mind to safely and responsibly document harassment. Check out this tip sheet from WITNESS for more details.
- First, assess the situation. Is anyone helping the person being harassed? If not, use one of the other four D’s.
- If someone else is already helping out, assess your own safety. If you are safe, go ahead and start recording. A few tips:
- Make sure to keep a safe distance.
- Film landmarks (e.g. a street sign or subway platform sign or car number).
- Clearly state the date and time that you are filming.
- Hold the camera steady and hold important shots for at least 10 seconds.
- Most importantly, ALWAYS ask the person who was harassed what they want to do with the recording. NEVER post it online or use it without their permission. There are several reasons for this. Being harassed or violated is already a disempowering experience. Using an image or footage of a person being victimized without that person’s consent can make the person feel even more powerless. If the documentation goes viral, it can lead to further victimization and a level of visibility that the person may not want. Also, posting footage without a victim’s consent makes their experience public – something that can lead to a whole host of legal issues, especially if the act of harassment or violence was in some way criminal. They may be forced to engage with the legal system in a way that they are not comfortable with. Also, the experience could have been traumatic. Publicizing another person’s traumatic experience without their consent is no way to be an effective and helpful bystander. Lastly, advise AGAINST posting documentation online due to the controversial UU ITE.
* A note about safety: We don’t ever want you to get hurt trying to help someone out. Always think about safety and consider possibilities that are unlikely to put you or anyone else in harm’s way.
YOU ARE POWERFUL
Remember, everyone can do something. At this time in our history, it is even more important that we show up for one another as active bystanders. Research shows that even a knowing glance can significantly reduce trauma for the person who is targeted. One of the most important things we can do is to let the person who is targeted know, in some way, however big or small, that they are not alone.
Sharing Your Story
Once you’ve acted, share your story on Hollaback! You’ll inspire others to take action, and give hope to people who experience harassment on the regular that there are folks out there ready to have their backs.
WITH LOVE AND REVOLUTION: BYSTANDER INTERVENTION
MORE BYSTANDER TACTICS
In addition to responding in the moment, there are other steps you can take to change culture and prevent violence in your community.
You can fight harassment in your day-to-day life. There are plenty of ways to do that.
- Sign the pledge to do your part to have people’s back when you witness harassment.
- Support folks on Hollaback!. Read some of the Hollaback blog posts and let folks know you’ve got their back.
- Become a HeartMobber and practice bystander intervention online. Sign up at HeartMob to become a HeartMobber and learn how to support people facing online harassment.
- Share the love on social media. The more people out there that know we exist, the more impact we have. Invite your Facebook friends to our Facebook page, give @ihollaback a shout-out on Twitter, and follow and re-post us on Instagram.
- Any time you see someone practicing bystander intervention, tell them they’re awesome! A little positive reinforcement goes a long way.
If you’ve got a little more time to give, you can learn up or contribute.
- Read all the research about harassment you can get your hands on.
- Get the word out about Hollaback!’s work and mission! Contact [email protected] for details on how you can raise awareness about harassment at your next event or party and get some cool Hollaback! swag in the process.
Got a lot more time? Start organizing.
- Find a Hollaback! in your community and volunteer.
- Launch a Hollaback! in your community if there are no Hollaback! chapters near you.
- Organize an action using our Holla! How-To guides.
BACKGROUND ON GREEN DOT’S GOT YOUR BACK CAMPAIGN
The specific application of Green Dot to harassment is a collaborative between Hollaback! and the awesome folks at Green Dot, etc.
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