What can I do if I’ve witnessed an incident of harassment and bullying?
Bystanders, the largest group involved in violence, who greatly outnumber both perpetrators and survivors have the power to stop abuse and to get help for someone who is being subject to harassment. Active bystanders are people who are aware of an abusive situation, and choose to speak up and say or do something without putting their own safety at risk.
An active bystander assesses a situation to determine what kind of help, if any might be appropriate. They evaluate their options and choose a strategy for responding.
Of course, you should not choose a course of action that puts you or anyone else at risk of harm. Know your own limits and “comfort zone”, and use your common sense. You can use our guidance to identify resources available on campus for yourself or to refer people appropriately.
You might want to:
- Name or identify inappropriate behaviour so it isn’t glossed over or ignored
- Keep an accurate record of what you have observed
- Encourage the person being bullied or harassed to ask for help e.g. accompany them to a place where they can get help or provide them with information about where to go for help
- Report the bullying or harassment to someone in authority, e.g. your personal tutor, a harassment advisor or the head of department. If the bullying involves assault, injury or damage to property, report it to the police. If it occurs online, report it to the owner of the website and keep screenshots of any activity or communications.
What can I do to support a friend who had told me that they have experienced sexual violence?
It can be hard to see someone you care about in distress, in difficulty or hurt. It can be stressful for you too and have an impact on your relationship.
If the perpetrator is one of your friendship group or someone you know, this can make things more complicated.
Whether the sexual violence is still happening or happened in the past, you can be a vital support to your friend. It is possible to heal from the experience and having a support network, feeling safe, and taking your time all make a big difference.
You can be a good support by:
- Listening to your friend
- Accepting them and not casting judgement
- Reassuring them that you won’t tell anyone else (unless a child is at serious risk of harm)
- Being patient with your friend
- Taking the lead from your friend – it is important that they are in control
- Not trying to push them into making decisions such as reporting to the police if they don’t want to
- Avoiding intrusive questions about the abuse
- Learning about sexual violence and its effects
- Learning about ways of coping with these effects
- Avoiding feeling responsible or trying to fix things
- Asking your friend what they need from you
- Looking after yourself too
From Rape Crisis Scotland’s ‘Information for Friends’.