Food drives, coat drives, and buying gifts for those less fortunate are all great ways to spread some holiday cheer. This year, we invite you to try a new way of giving back — bystander intervention.
As many of us get ready to hit the road for the holidays — we know that people all over the country will experience discrimination and harassment just trying to get home to their loved ones. It is important for us to show them they aren’t alone.
Here are five ways you can show up for others in your holiday travels:
- Direct. Tell them exactly how you want them to change their behavior, and then stop talking. “You’re being inappropriate, stop commenting on his kippah,” or “She said she wants to be left alone, respect that.”
- Distract. If the harassment is ongoing, try de-escalating the situation by creating a commotion, i.e. dropping your spare change on a hard floor or standing absentmindedly between the two people. You can also try start a conversation with the person experiencing the harasment or discrimination. Believe it or not, it starves the person harassing of attention and they slowly lose interest.
- Delegate. This can be someone in a position of authority, i.e. a flight attendant, train conductor, or bus driver, but it can also just be the person next to you. One thing to watch out for: before calling 911 or the police always ask the person experiencing the harassment if that’s what they want. Some people, especially people of color, immigrants, trans folks, etc, will often feel less safe with police present.
- Document. Our brains are wired to forget some of the details of trauma and to remember other things in technicolor. And to further complicate the problem, “gaslighting,” or telling the person they didn’t experience what they know they did, is a common tactic that people use to avoid taking accountability for their actions. To avoid this, try writing down exactly what people said. If you think you need to, consider recording the conversation. Then give your documentation to the person who was harassed and let them decide what they want to do with it next.
- Delay. OK, this is the one we all can do. Check in with the person who was harassed once it’s over. This may seem obvious, but so often people skip this step and it leaves the person who was harassed feeling even more alone. People often tell us that it was more traumatic to them that no one did anything, or said anything to them, that the original harassment was. Our research with Cornell shows that as little as a knowing glance can reduce trauma.
For more information on how to intervene when you see harassment, sign up here for our free guide on bystander intervention. You can also intervene virtually by reading these recent stories submitted to us — and clicking the “I’ve Got Your Back” button to let people know they aren’t alone.
Did you know that donating to organizations that do anti-harassment work (*cough* *cough* us) is a form of bystander intervention? Join us in the movement to end harassment by donating to us.