EMILY MAY explains how when any part of our society gives license to bigotry, we must stand up to it.
Unfortunately, acts of violence and street harassment against Muslims have increased by 67 percent between 2014 and 2015, with incidents such as women getting their hijabs torn of and mosques being set on free. What’s worse than being targeted for harassment because of your race, sex, religion, color, gender, size, orientation, disability, religion, or origin? Being targeted while surrounded by a bunch of strangers who choose to remain passive bystanders. Below are common excuses for inaction and how to overcome them:
“It’s Not My Problem”
Street harassment is everyone’s problem. Even if you’ve never been a target, the odds are that your loved ones, friends and co-workers have been. Ask them. If you care about making the world safe for them, it’s your responsibility to do something when you see it happening.
“Nobody Else is Doing Anything”
It’s that kind of thinking that allows a whole crowd to wait for “someone else” to act. It takes courage to the first to speak up for what’s right.
“But it’s a cultural thing.”
Street harassment might be normalized in certain circles, but it’s never okay.
“It’s Harmless, Right?”
Verbal harassment can make targets feel uncomfortable, threatened or in danger and can quickly escalate to violence or physical assault. The effects are very real, to everyone who lives their life aware that they are not safe in public.
“I Don’t Know What To Do”
We’ve got you covered. Read on.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help in situations of harassment. Research by Cornell’s International Labor Relations school found that as little as a knowing glance shared with the target can reduce the trauma associated with harassment, while the presence of bystanders who do nothing can actually increase the trauma. The key to successful bystander intervention is knowing that you have options and using them. Below are Hollaback!’s 5 Ds of Bystander Intervention.
Creating a distraction can help de-escalate the situation by bringing the person doing the harassment “out of the moment.” Examples include asking for the time, dropping your coffee cup, pretending you’re lost—really, anything
Intervention doesn’t always need to happen while the harassment is happening. Afer the harassment is over, ask the person if they are okay, or if there is anything you can do to help. This one is powerful because it puts control of the situation back into the hands of the person who was harassed. It makes them feel less alone, and reduces trauma.
Calmly let the harasser know that what they are doing is wrong, but do not escalate the situation. The focus of this intervention is to usher the person being harassed to safety. This can be risky and is not always the safest bet for everyone as the harassment can be redirected at the bystander, but there are some people who can do this
Ask a third party to help, since there is strength in numbers. We’ve heard stories of people finding support in someone else standing near them, or from a transit employee, a teacher, or a manager.
Use your phone to take video or photographs of the situaton. Although this tactc can be incredibly useful in building awareness about harassment and catching the perpetrator, it can also be disempowering, and even dangerous, for the person being harassed if you share the footage you take without their consent. Be sure to share the footage with the person being targeted immediately afer the incident and respect their wishes if they do not want anyone else to see it.