Tips on how to recognise and stand up to everyday scenarios of sexual violence and harassment are part of a campaign from Irish youth website, SpunOut.ie
The behaviour that contributes to sexual violence is often normalised in society, making it difficult to recognise and address it when it occurs.
Kiki Martire, SpunOut.ie director, explains: “Coming out of COVID lockdown we all have a responsibility to try and create better and safer social spaces that can be enjoyed by all. To do this, it means that if we see harmful behaviour we do something to address it and don’t assume that someone else will. We all have a part to play in ending the cycle."
“People labelling acts of sexual violence as 'fun' or a 'joke' are justifying behaviour that they know is wrong. This continues a culture that makes excuses and minimises the mistreatment of others. We need to acknowledge the full range of sexually violent behaviours as unacceptable.”
The ‘Better Than Before’ campaign also highlights young people’s experiences of sexual violence and asks people to share their stories about sexual violence, including how interventions against it impacted their lives, by using the hashtag #BetterThanBefore on social media.
The campaign is in partnership with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the UCC Bystander Intervention Programme and the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre and includes tips on supporting someone who has experienced sexual violence or harassment.
It also offers online training to young people on how to intervene safely against everyday experiences of sexual violence.
It can sometimes be difficult to recognise when harassment is occurring: it is unwanted or hostile behaviour towards someone that makes them feel intimidated or humiliated.
Sexual harassment is unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. This can be verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct. Referring to someone as 'damaged goods' is an example of sexually aggressive behaviour.
Coordinator of the Cork branch of Comhairle na nÓg, TJ Hourihan, welcomes the campaign and said that understanding youth culture is a top priority: “We’re educators and we help them navigate the issues that affect them, and certainly the issue of harassment and sexual violence is an issue that has been flagged to us."
The campaign features tips to bystanders to sexual violence which include:
- Pretending to know the person you see being harassed and talking to them to cause a distraction;
- Intervening if you see someone too drunk or high to consent to sexual activity by asking them if they want to go to the bathroom and checking they are okay;
- If you witness someone being harassed on a night out, create conversation between the two people as distraction, tell staff, or ask friends to intervene.