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Tools to Help Teens Talk About Sexual Assault and Harassment

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There are several ways to be a supportive friend or an ally to someone who has experienced sexual harassment or assault. They include raising awareness, speaking up when you see or hear suspicious, risky or dangerous behavior and being compassionate to survivors.

Ramis Banuri, 19, of Salt Lake City, Utah, said he speaks up whenever he can, and tries to get others to do the same. “People don’t necessarily want to intervene because there’s this notion that it’s not your business and they don’t want to embarrass themselves if they misread a situation, he said. “I tell them ‘would you rather be embarrassed for a moment about a small situation that nobody will really remember, or be sorry because you were right and could have prevented someone from getting hurt?’”

Bystander intervention is a strategy for preventing harassment and assault from happening or continuing. The goal is to disrupt what feels like a loaded moment before things can escalate. Every situation is different and there is no single way to intervene, but here are some guidelines from the Green Dot program, a widely used bystander intervention training system, which encourages people to act using what are called the Three Ds.

Direct intervention is straightforward. If someone uses sexist language or makes someone uncomfortable with sexual comments or jokes, you could say, “Hey, that’s making people uncomfortable — that’s harassment. Stop.” Or “You’ve had way too much to drink. You’re in no shape to even think about hooking up — let’s get you home.”

You can also interrupt a risky dynamic with a distraction. If someone is making another person uncomfortable with their attention, you could say, “Hey, the guys are looking for you downstairs. Let’s go see what’s up.”

In other situations, you may delegate to someone else who has more training, authority or social leverage and may be more effective at intervening.

If you see someone you don’t know well acting inappropriately, tell the people they came with and encourage them to intervene. If you witness a couple fighting and it seems to be getting physical, find a trusted adult or authority figure, or call the police.

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