We are leading a national campaign to raise awareness of street harassment and the role bystanders have in prevention and support. We are encouraging people to ask others 'are you okay' if they witness it happening and it is safe to do so.
Street harassment is on the rise and that is partly down to our culture of acceptance and tolerance of it. Crimes and harmful behaviours such as public sexual harassment and hate crime are significantly under-reported. A key factor for this is the everyday nature of these crimes and incidents and the fact that they are deeply ingrained in our culture.
Yet no matter how serious the incidents may be, they pervade the lives of those who experience them relentlessly and are often likely to escalate if not addressed. But people are becoming more aware of it and the long-term implications it has on victims and whole communities. The tide of acceptance is turning.
Harassment often occurs in residential streets, on the bus, or in local parks and high streets when there are people around who may witness it. There are many reasons why they won’t intervene particularly when in large groups. Termed the ‘bystander effect’ this occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to initiate help for a person in distress
Now we leading a national campaign to raise awareness of street harassment and the role bystanders have in prevention.
Disrupting the escalation early by safely intervening and reporting, makes it more difficult for discrimination and hate to flourish. Asking “Are You Okay?” is part of delayed intervention and part of the ‘five D’s methodology of bystander intervention. For more information about the 5Ds methodology and how to safely intervene and prevent street harassment, visit ourwatch.org.uk/streetharassment.
Over one-third of those that had experienced a crime in the past 12 months had been harassed, threatened, or verbally abused in the street. Nearly three-quarters were worried about street harassment on a national level.* Most people who experience harassment in public, don’t feel empowered to report it. Even more worrying than that, is that many feel responsible in some way themselves.
If you witness someone being harassed on the street whether they are being intimidated, shouted at, insulted, honked at, up-skirted, or are having offensive gestures or comments made towards them – when it is safe for you to do so, ask them if they are okay. This lets them know that you stand by them, empowers the victim to report and sends a message of intolerance towards the crime. In this way we can start to turn that culture of acceptance around.
John Hayward-Cripps, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Network