We talk a lot about bystander accountability so we were excited to see Amanda Hess from The Sexist interview our dear friend and mentor Lauren Taylor from Defend Yourself on what bystanders can do when they see someone experiencing public sexual harassment.
* Look out for number one. “Always think about your own safety first,” Taylor says. “Look at who’s around who could back you up if necessary. If you’re inside, say at a bar or social event, figure out where the doors are.”
* Speak to the victim. “When you’re thinking about intervening, address the person you think is being targeted,” Taylor says. “Say to her, ‘Are you OK?’ Or, ‘Can I do anything?’ Or, ‘Do you want to come with me?’ This won’t necessarily solve the situation, but it will let her know that there are other options. It will let her know that people are seeing what’s happening, and it lets the harasser know the same thing. There are witnesses, and it’s not going to go unnoticed.”
* Make a scene. “For example, you could draw attention to it by saying something like, ‘This guy is putting his hands all over her!’ Or, ‘This guy is harassing her!’ and that could draw enough attention to the situation that the harasser would cut it out,” Taylor says. “Airing any of these things, and making them more visible, will ultimately make them better.”
“Now, the harasser may respond by saying, ‘Who are you? This has nothing to do with you! She doesn’t mind!,’” Taylor says. “But you still have transformed what’s going on, and possibly made it safer. The harasser talking back doesn’t mean it didn’t work.”
* Even if the victim doesn’t ask for help, you can still do something. “Like with everything, it totally depends on the situation,” Taylor says. “Especially if it’s a partner thing, you may hear the victim respond, ‘Oh, I’m okay, go away.’ But I still think it makes a difference that it was noticed and recognized.”