What to do if you witness harassment?
What would you do if you saw someone attacking or yelling at another woman in a public space? We don’t often think about it, but it happens. It can be difficult to try and figure out what to do in that situation and that’s understandable. You might actually want to help the person but feel too helpless to do so. If this happens to you and you want to do something about it, here are five tips on how you could handle the situation.
Don’t assume you have to confront the harasser
Confronting someone directly can be a risky move, you can become the target too. The harasser can be armed and could seriously injure someone especially if they are heated and angry at that point. So there is the chance of the situation escalating because the harasser might redirect their anger or aggression towards you. The first thing to do, is to assess the situation: evaluate your safety, and evaluate the harasser before you intervene.
Distract the Harasser
In many situations one option can be to talk to the person being harassed.
The distraction option allows you to take the focus from the harasser and make him or her retreat. The person being harassed might then either choose to accept or decline your help.
Distraction is often used as an intervention in situations like this because approaching the person being harassed gives them control over the whole situation.
Ask someone else for help
If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable approaching the situation, ask for help from someone else usually someone with authority and someone you trust. Asking for help is better than ignoring the situation and doing nothing to help the person being harassed.
If you can’t help during the incident you can help afterwards
You can still approach the person and ask if she needs help (after the harasser leaves). She might want someone to go with her to her destination or to help her report the incident to the police. Just hearing that someone else saw and recognized the harassment can be helpful for some people.
Document the incident
Documenting the incident can help the person being harassed at a later stage when they press charges against the harasser. You can take a video of the incident or pictures as long as you’re at a far enough distance and not so close to the harasser that they could attack you, anything that can be used as proof. Keep a safe distance - don’t allow anyone, especially the harasser to see that they’re being filmed. If it’s not safe, write down as much as you can about the incident. Save the date, time and the name of the area that this all took place.
Whatever you do, don’t post anything online. You’d rather let law enforcement deal with the harasser because by posting the harassment online, your risk further humiliating the victim. You shouldn’t post pictures or videos of victims without their consent
Witnessing someone being harassed can be a frightening experience but with these tips you’ll be able to do something instead of nothing at all. You don’t need to get involved physically as there are other ways you can help without the risk of being injured during the process.
During 16 Days of Activism, we’re highlighting some of the issues women face when it comes to gender-based violence, and harassment is just one of them. If you’re done with silence, or want to encourage others to take a stand around violence against women, you can make your noise here: Make a Noise. Remember to use the hashtag #DoneWithSilence.
If you need advice or help, remember that you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657)
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