People are often unsure of what – if anything – they can do about sexual harassment on the job if they aren’t the ones directly experiencing it. However, there are numerous things you can do to stop harassment and protect the victims if you witness it.
If you are in a situation where you see or hear someone sexually harassing a coworker, you can intervene in a few effective ways. Depending on the circumstances, you might consider:
- Making eye contact with the harasser so they know you are there
- Making a brief, direct statement like, “That’s inappropriate,” or “Stop doing that.”
- Interrupting the conversation or creating a distraction to disrupt the situation
- Physically separating the harasser and victim
- Asking someone else to step in for you if you are uncomfortable or unable to do so yourself
As long as it is safe, these measures can stop harassing behaviors.
Taking notes and retaining information on harassment incidences can be crucial if there is ever an investigation or lawsuit.
Some of the details to keep track of include:
- When an incident occurs
- What a person said or did to the victim
- Where the harassment took place
- Who was around at the time
Keep this information in a safe place so it can be available if the time ever comes.
Talk to the victim
Being harassed at work can make a person feel isolated, ashamed and distrustful. Speaking to them can help them feel supported.
You might say you saw or heard what happened and want to know if they are okay. You can offer some support, like saying you would be willing to speak to HR or someone else if they want to report the harasser.
Further, if they are not sure they want to do this, you can talk to them about reporting sexual harassment yourself.
Even if they don’t want to talk about harassment when you approach them, telling them that you are available to talk if they change their mind can be very reassuring.
Sexual harassment can hurt victims and create a toxic, uncomfortable workplace for anyone who witnesses it. These steps can help people stop these behaviors and protect victims.