How can we stop sexual harassment?
Sexual Harassment, Domestic Violence, Abuse… whatever the name may be, they all have one thing in common; the problem has been going on in our society for too long. At this point, with the recent ‘Me Too’ movement, the different documentaries and allegations within both the Hollywood industry and the normal world, everyone knows the severity of this issue the moment it's brought up. But when faced with the real situation, not many know what to do in the heat of the moment. Lots of people don’t end up reporting their cases which is why it’s crucial to learn how to help.
So how do we help? Well first educate yourself, learn ways to identify sexual harassment itself. Unless someone directly tells you, look for signs of victim-distress. No book will give you a fixed answer on how to identify a victim, but if your guts tell you something wrong, it's usually best to listen. Become aware of the way one person interacts with a certain someone, if the vibe is off-putting then chances are something might be wrong. Sometimes victims can act scared, timid, afraid, or even normal after experiencing something traumatic. Besides classifying a victim, another way could also be to observe someone for predatory behavior, watch out for their comments, do they talk to someone a certain way? Or do things subconsciously that seem inappropriate such as touching or grasping, those are behaviors to watch out for. Even if the person has never committed actual assault, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and watch out for those acts. The last method is to directly ask the person if they are going through something. This was placed last because it’s not an ideal way to approach a topic so sensitive. Make sure you know this person well enough to ask them, and if they did go through something, be there to listen. There are always many ways to help another person and being there for someone is enough sometimes. If you ever face a situation like this it is important to take action because if not you are going to be stuck in an endless cycle. Listen and demonstrate that you believe them. Be sure your friend knows you will be supportive. Furthermore, inform yourself about resources and be reassuring. It's easy to give up but we can’t decide failure without trying.
But what do you do once you identify it? Well, now it entirely depends on your environment. Unfortunately, the reality is that some places will do whatever it takes to keep these cases from being public. If you are sure that the environment is safe, then it's best to report to an authority (911) or someone in a higher position. Other options will protect your identity and keep you or the victim safe from the public. One way could be the domestic hotline (1-800-799-7233), this hotline could be contacted by phone or through a website where it doesn’t require you to speak. If you are actively witnessing the abuse and are unable to do anything but be on standby, make sure you can record or find some way to keep the evidence, because, in the end, the system is our enemy, if the crime cannot be proven then the whole case can be thrown out. Sexual harassment is common in so many industries and many aren’t able to take action because they are scared of the outcome. However, if all of us come together we can bring change. If another female need help we have to step up and we can’t always be afraid of hierarchy. Otherwise, this is a never-ending cycle. What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.