What can you do to stop workplace sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment at work is actually everyone’s problem — not just management’s and not just the victim’s. When someone’s being victimized, it can make the atmosphere at work toxic for all.

What, however, are you supposed to do about it?

If you aren’t in a position of authority, you may feel like you’re powerless to do anything to stop sexual harassment from happening — but that’s actually far from the truth.

It turns out, bystanders who witness sexual harassment are the most powerful people in the whole situation.

Here are some steps you can take to actively stop sexual harassment from continuing if you witness it:

1. As long as you feel safe saying something to the harasser directly, you can express your disapproval. A comment like, “That was vulgar,” or “That wasn’t funny,” is enough to discourage a repeat event.

2. You can interrupt. Simply walk up to the victim and invent a reason to talk to him or her. That may stop harassment in the act.

3. You can ask the harasser questions. Again, if you feel safe, you can say something like, “Do you realize what it seemed like you were doing?” It’s important to give the harasser an “escape route” by not leveling accusations — give him or her a chance to acknowledge that the behavior was questionable without acknowledging it was intentional.

4. You can openly talk about your personal perception of sexual harassment. Expressing a negative view of anyone who would sexually harass a co-worker helps create a workplace culture that encourages appropriate behavior.

5. You can let the victim know you saw what happened and think it was inappropriate. That tells the victim that he or she is not just overreacting and not to blame.

6. You can encourage the victimized co-worker to make a report. Victims often feel like they should remain silent — not make waves. Let them know it’s okay to do both.

Source: The New York Times, “Sexual Harassment Training Doesn’t Work. But Some Things Do.,” Claire Cain Miller, accessed March 02, 2018