PHOTO: courtesy of Popular resistance Organization
Don’t just standby, Help!
Violence is an everyday occurrence, yet many keep on ignoring it and denying its existence. Lately the most common is happening in public spaces mainly against women and girls in urban and rural areas, in developed and developing countries.
Sadly, women and girls experience various types of sexual violence in public spaces, from unwanted sexual remarks and touching to rape. This occurs on the streets, in and around public transportation terminals, schools and workplaces, in public sanitation facilities, water and food distribution sites and parks.
The main victims of harassment in public spaces, in the street as well as on public transport, are young women. In Lima, 9 of every 10 women between 19 and 29 years of age has been victim to street harassment (2013). In Bogota and Mexico City, 6 out of every 10 women have experienced some sexual aggression on public transport (2014). In the case of Chile, 5 out of every 10 women between 20 and 29 years of age have declared to have experienced sexual harassment on the street (2015). This is according to Gender Equality Observatory.
It is important for every one of us to take up the role of ensuring that this statistics go down. Reducing the level of violence in society will require many more men to step up as active bystanders since most violence is committed by men, and men are more likely to listen to another man than they are to a woman. These two facts make it essential that more men get involved as active bystanders intervening to stop other men from being violent. It is also important to mobilize men with power, including government, community, and business leaders, as well as policy-makers, to think of themselves as active bystanders in the effort to end violence. Taking steps as an active bystander is often not easy, especially for men who are taking action to stop other men’s violence. It is important for men to identify ways they can support each other in their efforts to be more active bystanders.
Below are some actions we take to help stop the violence against our women and girls in public spaces.
Talk to the victim, ignore the attacker
Always engage the person in a conversation to help them feel safe and calm. Find out how they are. Hollaback says that “even a knowing look to the person being harassed can reduce their trauma and experience of isolation”.
Confront the harasser
Let the harasser know that what they are doing is wrong and you will not just stand by and do nothing.
Talk about something random
Talk to the person about a topic that will take their mind off what has just happened.
Keep building the safe space
Keep eye contact with them ignoring the attackers. Ignoring the attacker makes him feel less insignificant.
Keep the conversation going until the attacker leaves. If possible take them to a safe space
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