Empowering bystanders to act on sexist and sexually harassing behaviours

Found in: Resources on violence against women and girls

Empowering bystanders to act on sexist and sexually harassing behaviours

This guide has been developed to help organisations introduce bystander initiatives as part of their work to reduce sexist and sexually harassing behaviours. It explains what bystander action is and outlines four key steps for implementing effective bystander initiatives. This is an innovative program of work that uses behavioural insights theory and approaches to encourage bystander action against sexism and sexual harassment in various settings.

Understandably, people on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour can find it difficult to confront the perpetrators. However, research shows that when a third party steps in and becomes an active bystander, it helps to discourage the perpetrator and emotionally support the victim. By speaking up, individuals can contribute to a culture that condemns sexist behaviours.

In workplaces, sexist behaviour could take the form of a crude joke, making unwanted approaches, or treating men and women differently for doing the same job. Whatever its form, sexist and sexually harassing behaviour hurts both individuals and organisations. It’s not always easy to call out these behaviours. This bystander action guide was developed to help organisations reduce sexist and sexually harassing behaviour.

There are different ways to be an active bystander. Sometimes it’s reporting inappropriate behaviour, other times it’s responding to an offensive remark to show the perpetrator that their comments are not okay. You can read a range of responses to sexist behaviour in this guide, as well as learn how to implement active bystander initiatives in your organisation.

The reports and tools below distill the findings and practice insights from the ‘Active Bystander’ trials:

Bystander behavioural survey tool for universities