Being an ethical bystander is not about being a hero. Ethical bystanders notice something they think is dangerous, inappropriate or unjust and decide they can do something about it. Remember that sexual harassment can look different in different situations- sexual harassment can include unwanted physical touching, ‘jokes’ of a sexual nature, whistling and catcalling, or comments about someone’s appearance.

It’s really important to remember that sexual assault is grounded in unequal social power dynamics. Prevention requires us all to challenge sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic and transphobic comments! A simple “that’s not cool” response to a sexist ‘joke’ can make a big impact!

Check out this video as an example. Remember to click the link the comments box below the video for some practical suggestions about what you could do in similar situations.

Think about intervening when:

  • A mate says something unkind, like calling someone a “slut”
  • You see someone who is visibly upset
  • You hear something that makes you think there is violence or aggression (remember to be safe and delegating can be the most effective and safest option)
  • You witness someone saying sexually explicit comments to or about someone else
  • You see someone chatting up someone else who is too drunk to consent

Check out the Random Acts of Kindness column in UQU’s student magazine Semper Floreat, to read UQ students’ stories of being ethical bystanders!

A note on identity

Who we are and how other people see us (our personal and social identities) mean that we all experience privilege and discrimination differently. Our gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity, ability, age and other identities, all intersect to give us more or less power in certain contexts. Consider your privilege and remember, in some situations, you have more power to intervene than others.