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If not you, then who? How to be an active bystander when someone is being harassed.

Animation of man and woman on bus, male is leaning into women who looks uncomfortable

Sexist jokes, inappropriate comments, unwanted attention, intimidation.

These may not be ‘crimes’ but they are no less threatening or harmful to the person experiencing them.

National figures show that 71% of women have experienced harassment in public spaces. Whilst we know it’s not just women who experience harassment, they are disproportionately affected.

Would you notice someone being harassed?

We’re all busy people. On our phones, talking, texting, listening to a podcast. We could walk past someone being harassed and not even notice.

We’re calling on people to be aware of what’s going on around them and to notice if someone may be in need of help.

  • Does someone look visibly uncomfortable or upset?
  • Have they asked the person to stop or leave them alone?
  • Are there raised voices or does it seem a hostile or aggressive conversation?

Behaviours of harassment may include:

  • Making rude or insulting comments
  • Using racial, homophobic, or transphobic slurs towards someone
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Showing aggression towards another person
  • Persistent, unwanted attention (i.e. continuing to pursue or talk to someone when they have asked you to stop)
  • Following someone
  • Flashing a body part
  • Touching someone without consent
  • Intentionally invading someone’s personal space
  • Whistling, catcalling, sexist or inappropriate comments

How can I help?

We can all play a part in challenging these behaviours and helping to prevent abuse or more serious violence against women and girls from occurring. Bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens and play an important role in preventing, discouraging and intervening in a situation where an act of violence has the potential to occur.

Below are the different ways you could intervene if you notice someone being harassed.


Ask the person being harassed a question or strike up a conversation. This is a non-confrontational way to interrupt, by addressing the person being harassed you can distract and discourage the harasser and put a stop to their behaviour.


You may not feel comfortable or safe to intervene in a situation on your own. Raise your concerns and ask someone for help, this could be a bus driver, security guard, teacher, store manager, or just another bystander like yourself.


If you’re not comfortable intervening – document the situation. Record the time, date, location and details of the incident in a way that is safe to do so. Ask the person afterwards what they would like to do with the recording or the notes.


If you can’t intervene in the moment, you could hang back and check in on the person afterwards to make sure that they are okay.


Confront the harasser only if you feel safe to do so by stating what you see and that it is not okay. You can also directly intervene by engaging with the victim, asking if they are okay and if they need help and avoid engaging in a discussion or argument with the harasser. Always prioritise your own safety.

If you believe someone may be in immediate danger, always call 999.

How you help will depend on the situation. You must only do what you feel safe and comfortable to, by evaluating the situation, seeking help, and choosing the best option, you can be an active bystander and help prevent harassment and harm. Don’t assume that someone else will step in instead – choose to act when you notice something is wrong.

If not you, then who?