- Student Services
- Title IX, Harassment, Discrimination
- Bystander Intervention / Responding to a Disclosure of Sexual Harassment
Bystander Intervention / Responding to a Disclosure of Sexual Harassment
We all have a role to play in creating a safe, respectful and healthy learning and working environment. You can make a significant impact by intervening as an active bystander and responding to disclosures of sexual harassment with care and compassion.
Notice what is going on in your environment.
Look for red flags. Fight against the urge to look away or focus on your phone when you are out in the community and during social or work situations. Observe the reactions of others and check in with them.
Examples of things to notice include:
- Marked change in your friend or co-worker's behavior or demeanor
- People getting into a heated argument in public
- Comments related to a friend or co-worker being controlled by a partner
- How much alcohol your friends are consuming
- Your friends' interactions with strangers
- Unexplained bruises or other injuries
Know how to help.
Your actions can make a difference. Knowing in advance what you can do to intervene can give you the confidence to step in if you think someone is at risk.
- Familiarize yourself with the resources at Columbus State and in the larger community. Know who to contact for specific issues that students, staff and/or faculty may face.
- Request a bystander intervention training session for your staff team, office or department. You can request A Beginner's Guide to Bystander Intervention or Step Up training sessions by visiting Equity and Compliance's training and education webpage.
- Learn more about the impact of active bystanders and effective intervention strategies by watching the educational video Bystander Intervention and reviewing the Bystander Intervention Tips and Strategies handout on Equity and Compliance's training and education webpage.
Responding to a Disclosure of Sexual Harassment
Actively listen, keep eye contact and focus on what the disclosing individual is saying.
Be in the moment and do not interrupt. Sometimes repeating back what they said shows that you are paying close attention.
Respond compassionately, showing empathy and conveying care.
Some examples of safe, supportive responses include:
- "Thank you for coming to me with this." It can be extremely difficult for disclosing individuals to come forward and share their story. They may feel ashamed, concerned that they won't be believed or worried that they will be blamed. Leave any "why" questions and investigation to the experts - your role is to affirm the disclosing person's choice to share this information and to inform them of resources.
- "You are not alone." Remind the disclosing person that there are resources and service providers who will be able to support them as they recover from their experience.
- "It's not your fault." It is common for disclosing individuals to blame themselves, especially if they know the accused person. Tell them, maybe even more than once, that they are not to blame.
- "Do you want to get medical help?" It's okay to ask this directly if a person discloses a sexual or physical assault. The person might need medical attention, even if the event happened a while ago. You can support them by offering to accompany them to get medical treatment and to get more information.
- "This doesn't change how I think of you." Sometimes disclosing individuals are concerned that sharing what happened will change the way other people see them, especially their romantic partners, close friends or family members.
Encourage the person to seek further help.
Share resources and assure the disclosing person that the College has a process to address the situation as it may interfere with their ability to focus on their College work or present a safety concern. Keep in mind that it is their decision whether or not engage with Equity and Compliance or utilize any resources.
Offer to go with the person if they want to see a counselor or get medical attention.
This further shows that you are willing to provide support. If you are on campus, you can offer to walk the disclosing person to Counseling Services or the Police Department.
Do not blame or judge.
Do not analyze their experience and do not criticize their actions or choices.
* These tips are modified from the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN): https://rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-recovery/respond-to-a-survivor
A note about confidentiality:
Remember, if someone discloses an experience of prohibited conduct as defined under College Procedure 3-44 (A) Sexual Harassment/Sexual Violence and you are required to consult with Equity and Compliance, you are not able to keep that information to yourself. Tell the person who discloses that you will treat their information with sensitivity and consult with Equity and Compliance to make sure the College is appropriately addressing what they have shared. Equity and Compliance will evaluate the information and reach out to the disclosing individual. Then, the disclosing individual can decide whether they want to participate in the College's process.
As a reminder, employees required to consult with Equity and Compliance are:
- Employees of the Police Department
- Employees of Human Resources
- Non-student employees of the Office of Student Conduct
- Athletic coaches and assistant coaches
- Administrative employees with managerial responsibilities, including all academic chairpersons
For information on how to help a friend or loved one, please visit the Victim Advocacy Services website. Please note while the guidance on how to help a friend or loved one is excellent for providing support to someone outside of Columbus State, it may not be appropriate for supervisee and supervisor interactions and employee and student interactions.