Kim McGuinness shares expert advice on how to act if you witness sexual harassment
The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner also helped to deliver Active Bystander Training in the North East.
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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness is sharing important advice on what to do if we witness sexual harassment in public places, as part of the North East’s powerful #ItAllAddsUp campaign.
Following the roll-out of Active Bystander Training, commissioned by the PCC earlier this year, which was designed to equip people with the tools to respond safely and support victims of sexual harassment, McGuinness is continuing to ensure people know what to say and do if they witness sexual harrassment.
Kim McGuinness, said: “There can be no more turning a blind eye to sexual harassment. We know 71 per cent of women have experienced harassment in public places. My office’s survey also told me women wanted to see more being done to drive the change in attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls – this is exactly what all this work is doing.
“Not doing anything gives some men and boys the OK to go further and this can lead to horrific consequences for the victim. So, with this powerful campaign we are doing the very opposite of turning a blind eye; we’re shining the spotlight on it and calling it out. And with that it’s important people know what to do in the situations shown in the campaign. It’s not to say you should ever put yourself in a dangerous situation but there are times and ways in which we can all help stamp out the unwelcome comments and behaviours that often, as women, we just put up with as they have become part of everyday.
McGuinness continued: “Research tells us that by training people to be better bystanders we could end up with fewer sexual violence incidents. This work won’t put an end to VAWG overnight but it’s crucial for culture change and long-term prevention.
“It’s also about supporting victims right there in that moment, giving them validation and saying what they’ve experienced isn’t OK. Sexual harassment, sadly, is such a prevalent problem that we really need everybody on side with this, playing their role in prevention.
“Together we can take important steps to empower others in the fight against violence against women and girls in our region and beyond.”
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So far, McGuinness has invested over £1 million into practical solutions and behaviour change projects to keep people safe in the region, while 82 people who work with men and boys in the area have completed the Active Bystander Training delivered by Kindling Transformative Interventions, with 32 completing training which will allow them to train others on the matter.
A short film campaign launched by Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland depicted real-life experiences of local women, and has been backed by men and women across the country, including leading MPs and campaigners.
Advice on what to do and say if you witness sexual harassment has been shared by Kindling Transformative Interventions. The advice is as follows:
“1. Pause and take a breath – is it safe to intervene?
2. Remember, you have options: it doesn’t have to be confrontational. A look, body language or jokey comment can be enough to change the norm… if it doesn’t work that’s when you might escalate – but don’t go in at full steam to begin with.
3. There are almost always three people you can intervene with in the moment: the victim (“are you okay?”), the wrongdoer (“give it a rest, mate”); and an ally (“did you see that? Can you help?”) which could be a friend, another bystander or specialist services.
4. If it’s someone you know causing the harm – like a friend or family member – it might be better to intervene ‘after the event’ – like having a chat with them about what happened and why you felt uncomfortable. If alcohol is involved in the moment, it might be more likely to take on board what you’re saying if you talk to them after the event. Remember you can also intervene with the victim and allies after the event – like checking in with them and making a plan should something similar happen again.
5. Be safe but don’t over think it – remember, interventions don’t have to be perfect – they just have to be good enough. The aim is simply to show the wrongdoer and others that the behaviour is not okay, and the victim will be supported.”
Dr Rachel Fenton, Founder and Director of Kindling Transformative Interventions and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Exeter said: “It’s been fantastic to work with such a pro-active and committed PCC. Sexual harassment blights women’s lives. To really change our culture where this behaviour is normalised, it’s essential that we are all part of the solution. If everyone takes responsibility in their communities, workplaces and friendship groups to intervene as active bystanders, then we can all be part of stopping sexual harassment happening.”