It’s all too common for sexual harassment victims to hide what’s going on. Even with anonymous hotlines, they may still be afraid to say anything for fear of retribution or simply making the situation worse.
That’s why encouraging sexual harassment reporting through bystander training is so important. If this issue is occurring, odds are more people than the victim have noticed.
Bystanders Notice Sexual Harassment
Often times, bystanders don’t feel like it’s their place to report sexual harassment. They don’t want to get involved, but they still notice what’s going on. In many cases, they’re afraid if they report something, they’ll bring unwanted attention to the victim. However, it’s everyone’s responsibility in the workplace to protect an ethical, safe work culture for everyone else.
Bystander training encourages bystanders to stop standing on the sidelines and speak up about what they notice. This gives victims an extra voice, even if they’re afraid.
Bystanders Strengthen Victims
Sexual harassment victims often feel completely alone. They’re not sure who to trust. And, they’re afraid if they admit what’s going on, they’ll be blamed for it. In a series of studies, bystander training not only teaches bystanders what to look for, but how to show more empathy. This strengthens victims by ensuring they feel safer talking with someone who can empathize versus placing blame. Bystanders may also encourage victims to report incidents and serve as a witness.
Victims Need Witnesses
Sadly, it’s often a he said/she said situation. Sexual harassment victims who are dealing with unwanted advances and even assault from a boss or other person in power may not be believed without a witness. Bystander training includes talking to the victim when they notice something’s wrong. This gives the victim a much needed second voice to back their claim. The bystander may even be able to secretly watch to see exactly what is said and done to further provide evidence.
Intervene And Protect
Much like with bullying, sexual harassment can be stopped through bystander training and intervention. Train employees to intervene when they see sexual harassment and assault occurring. This helps reduce the chance of any incidents and ensures witnesses should anything happen.
By seeing others taking a stand and intervening, more people are willing to report incidents. This includes victims and those who have just witnessed it. The idea is to create a culture where no one puts up with harassment. Those who want to go against the rules are quickly identified, reported, and fired.
Help Everyone Recognize It
Sometimes, employees think it’s better to just keep their heads down and not pay attention to what’s going on around them. They don’t want to get labeled as a tattle-tale. However, bystander training lets them know that your company’s policy is for everyone to help recognize sexual harassment and other ethical issues. Encourage them to become part of the process of creating a better workplace.
Teach them to recognize the signs of sexual harassment. Train them on how to talk to the victim and how to report incidents. Also explain how they and the victim are protected.
With in-depth bystander training and an effective ethics hotline, businesses can drastically reduce and prevent sexual harassment.