Being a witness to sexual harassment can give you an important role of supporting the victim who was targeted by the harassment. Here are some tips you can follow if you see people in real life going through this type of situation:
- If you believe that directly addressing the harasser over their actions is a safe, you may reach out to them and tell them to stop their inappropriate behavior. This approach may be risky so make sure that all parties involved are in a safe position when confronting the harasser. You may respond with the following comments or questions:
- Please stop what you are doing.
- This is inappropriate behavior.
- What you are doing to this individual is inappropriate because…
- Do you realize the inappropriate behaviors you are inflicting on this individual?
- We need to discuss your actions.
- Why are you saying this?
- You could also interrupt the sexual harassment from proceeding any further. Instead of focusing on the harasser’s actions, this may allow you to interact with the victim. Ask questions, change the subject topics, or physically stop the harassment if it is safe to do so.
- Don’t act alone. Find someone who’s in power, such as a supervisor, a Human Resources officer, or a security/police officer.
- Wait until the interaction concludes. Approach the victim afterwards to follow up on what happened. You can offer both sympathy and empathy for what they went through. Ask them if they need any support to help them get over what happened, or if they would like you to serve as a witness. You may also confront the harasser about what was said to the victim.
- Document the interaction with your phone and record anything you witness, or use a notepad to write down any important details that you witnessed. Follow up with the victim and ask what they would like to do with the evidence you have. Make sure not to share it with anyone else without his or her consent.
Why Bystander Intervention is Important
Preventing an individual from experiencing sexual harassment is a big responsibility. An engaged bystander is someone who intervenes either before, during, or after the incident once they noticed or heard unsettling behaviors relating to threats, harassment, or sexual violence.
These types of situations commonly occur in public spaces, schools, workplaces, and even online. This type of behavior should never be allowed, which is why it is important for witnesses to act when they notice another individual has fallen victim to sexual harassment.
Additional reasons that emphasize the importance of bystanders to intervene include:
- Helping a vulnerable victim and becoming their support system.
- Preventing the inappropriate behavior from worsening or spreading.
- Enforcing a positive work ethic to help maintain a comfortable and friendly environment for everyone.
Reporting The Harassment
Witnesses have the right to report sexual harassment. However, it is essential to get consent from the victim, because her or she may have valid reasons regarding why they are hesitant about reporting the harassment.
One reason could be fear of retaliation. Nonetheless, you can still support an aggrieved individual by helping them navigate the process by serving as a witness if they choose to report the incident. Witnesses are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts from workplace retaliation.
For example, if a sexual harassment incident is reported, the employer has no right to respond with retaliatory action against the employees who reported the incident. Examples of retaliatory actions include denial of promotions or transferring the parties into less desirable positions.
Additional Ways Of Addressing Sexual Harassment
Below are more examples on how you can create a workplace culture to prevent sexual harassment:
- Have frequent conversations with staff members about figuring out ways to promote equity in the workplace.
- Request trainings on sexual harassment and witness intervention. Incorporating such trainings as a requirement will help co-workers defend one another when it comes to sexual harassment.
- Check in with other staff members to make sure their voices are being heard. It is essential to get their perspectives on inappropriate workplace behavior, especially when it comes to sexual harassment. By doing this, you are actively helping to create an equal work environment that allows all employees to safely speak out if a problem arises.
What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?
If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The sexual harassment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.
We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in California, contact our office at (213) 927-3700