The South African government’s Code of Good Practice on Sexual Harassment defines sexual harassment as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. The unwanted nature of sexual harassment separates it from behaviour that is welcome and mutual.

What can I do if I see sexual harassment happening?

As a witness (bystander) to sexual harassment there are certain things that you can do to contribute to disrupting the incident of sexual harassment. It is always important to keep your own safety in mind in all situations.

If you feel it safe to do so, here are some steps you can take if you see someone being sexually harassed:

Most important is to let the survivor know they are not alone. Below are some tactics to use if you are a bystander:

  1. Assess the situation. Ask yourself: Am I safe? Is the person being harassed physically safe? Are there others around who can support me?
  2. Intervene if you think it is safe to do so. Be firm with the harasser. Don’t apologise for intervening and don’t engage in dialogue. You might say: “That is not okay,” or “that is disrespectful”.
  3. Distracting the harasser can be helpful if you don’t want to intervene directly. You could ask the harasser for the time or for directions for example. But only if you feel it is safe to do so.
  4. Find someone to support you. Look for someone with authority such as a security guard
  5. Check in with the person who’s been harassed. Ask if you can help them, remind them that being harassed is not their fault. Ask if you can walk with them to where they are going.
  6. Document the incident. If someone else has already intervened, this can help authorities to follow up on the incident. Keep a safe distance and film important landmarks. Always ensure you speak to the survivor/victim to ask what they want you to do with the footage. Do not post it online or use it in any way without their permission.