Sexual harassment is any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which makes you feel distressed, intimidated or humiliated. Sexual harassment is defined as a form of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
Sexual harassment can manifest itself in the following forms:
A bystander is someone who is present when an event takes place but isn’t directly involved.
With 62% of students in the UK saying that they have experienced either harassment or assault (or both) during their time at university, now is the time to recognise the role that bystanders can play in preventing this abuse.
It is important to remember that the only person responsible for committing sexual harassment is the perpetrator - but all of us have some ability to look out for each other’s safety. It can be simply giving someone a safe ride home from an event or directly confronting the person who is engaging in the inappropriate behaviour. Everyone has a part to play in preventing sexual abuse.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to step into situations, even if you know you are doing the right thing. The following are common reasons given by bystanders as to why they’ve remained on the sidelines:
It’s very normal to have thoughts like this, but it is still important to recognise your role in preventing sexual harassment and to know that your actions can have a massive impact on a situation if you are in the place to help. Many situations can be prevented from happening in the first place by bystanders.
The most important aspect of keeping your friends (and even complete strangers) safe is learning how to intervene appropriately to the situations and your personal comfort level. Having a full knowledge of these boundaries will help give you the confidence to step into a situation when issues occur. Stepping in can be the difference a situation needs, but you should never put your own safety at risk when doing so.
One popular tactic used to rectify abusive situations is to interject directly - Do what you can to interrupt the situation. This can give the person at risk a chance of getting to a safe place.
Even if you are unable to change the outcome, just by stepping in you are helping to create change in the way people consider their role in preventing sexual abuse. Preventing bystander culture is always essential in supporting past and present survivors.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you can come and visit the Advice Centre (5th Floor of Student Central) to speak to us about your experiences. We can give you advice as to which pathways to reporting your abuse you can take, as well as support that doesn’t involve reporting, such as guiding you towards available support groups or counselling sessions. To see a comprehensive explanation for the services available to you as a student, as well as official reporting methods, please view our Reporting & Policy Guide. You can also see which charities that you might find beneficial on our Charities page. In addition to this, we have an ever-growing collection of self-help guides which are available at our Self Help Guide page.
If you are in immediate danger, always call 999.