We witness it happen in public transport, streets, markets, workspaces, and at homes. Yet, we tend to stay silent thinking that either it is a personal matter or someone else would intervene. While some people want to help but don’t know how, others don’t identify these acts as sexual harassment.
78% of women have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces and only 25% say someone helped. (As per March 2019 L’Oréal Paris & Ipsos International Survey on Sexual Harassment in Public Spaces: https://www.standup-international.com/in/en/facts)
Each time we witness violence against women in public spaces and let it go, we are just silencing the survivor and giving a green signal for the perpetrator’s behaviour. It is time we acknowledge any act of violence against women isn’t okay and it is everyone’s problem. As bystanders, we can play our role to make women feel valued and contribute in making spaces safer for women.
But who is a ‘Bystander’? Do you know what ‘Bystander Intervention’ means? Watch this video on Bystander Intervention:
Let’s be real. Bystander Intervention isn’t easy, as the situation might involve heated arguments, violent physical acts or sometimes it might just involve subtle behaviours. There is no one way of calling out or intervening violence in public spaces. A simple act that we can all start with is to believe the survivor. This simple way of listening and believing the survivor makes a huge difference by letting her know that it isn’t her fault.
Next time, when you witness any act of violence against women in public spaces, may be you can try out these simple strategies. These are just a few of the many strategies one can follow to stand up against any form of harassment on women in public spaces.
1. Ask silly questions or try to borrow something from the perpetrator. By doing this, you are not just interrupting the situation that would have otherwise turned violent but also hinting that the perpetrator’s behaviour is unacceptable.
2. If you think you are too scared to take any action all by yourself, collectivise people around you. Urge them to help you out or try and find out people who are good at confronting and negotiating.
3. Know that what a woman wears is totally her choice and it can never be an excuse for sexual harassment. A woman never asks for it. All she wants is to be her own self and feel safe when she is out in public spaces.
4. Share your story with your son. Teach them young. Tell boys that girls are not okay being stalked, catcalled, whistled and in that case any unwanted looks, touch or move. Educate them about consent, sex and sexuality and most importanly, that girls have agency just like boys.
5. Most importantly, listen and believe the survivor. Society still finds it hard to believe women and it is one of the reasons why women don’t speak up about sexual harassment thinking they will be judged and belittled.
We met some conscious bystanders during our #IgnoreNoMore campaign who stood up to violence against women inspite of feeling nervous and helpless. Meet these amazing people:
As violence against women is on the rise, we need to decide who we want to be – A silent bystander who keeps complaining that the country is not at all safe for women or an active bystander who stands up to stop violence against women.
It is not on one person to fix the culture of silence and inaction around violence against women. But each time when we stand up for a survivor, we are inching towards a world where women feel valued and safe in public, homes or any space they inhabit.