The Council and democracy Women's Night-time Safety Toolkit

Commitment 5 - Training and responding

Ensure your staff believe and support anyone who comes forward to report something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Make sure your management support staff by encouraging belief.

Provide specialised training for your staff on sexual harassment and assault, with a focus on how to respond and intervene if incidents take place.

How can I make sure my staff respond the right way?

Ensure that every public-facing team member is confident and that they have been trained in how to take a report of sexual harassment.

Advice for responding to harassment:

The person coming forwards has chosen you because they feel able to let you know about what has happened. Most people never speak up due to fear of being blamed or disbelieved, so the first thing you say is vital.

Try these fail-safe openers: 

  • Demonstrate belief (e.g. “Thank you for sharing what happened.”) 
  • Validate their experience (e.g. “That is not okay.”) 
  • Explain their options (e.g. “We have a policy here which is…” and “I’m going to see what I can do to help.”) 
  • Check you’ve understood what you’ve been told. 
  • Ask about any physical injuries or urgent needs.   

Then, if necessary, support the person to inform the relevant manager or team member to take the matter forward. Offer to separately summarise their story on their behalf if they would like you to. 

Communicate 

Tell a colleague when you are concerned about behaviour you’ve witnessed, no matter how minor it seems, as this prevents escalation. 

Be an active bystander 

Responding effectively to harmful behaviour can start with focussing your attention and support on the person being targeted. Check in with the person you think is experiencing unwanted attention, such as by making small talk, eye contact or giving them a discreet signal. This gives them an option to divert the harasser’s attention. 

Record keeping 

Record all incidents and reports, no matter how minor. This helps others to keep up to date with issues and repeated behaviours. Keep your notes clear and stick to facts not opinions. You can also ask for and record the name of any customer while they are on the premises, but they have the right to refuse to give this information. 

Remember your CCTV, and don’t hesitate to call 101 or 999 in an emergency. However, remember that the targeted person may prefer not to speak to the police and should never be coerced into doing so. You will be assisting greatly by giving even general third-party information to the police through 101, 999 or your local Neighbourhood Policing Teams. 

A culture of belief can become embedded within your organisation by regularly briefing and training staff and including your policy in new staff inductions. Make women’s safety, inclusion, and diversity part of your team culture through daily conversations. This is an ongoing process. Staff teams should be encouraged to challenge victim-blaming attitudes and managers should provide and encourage learning opportunities on this topic. 

Examples of victim-blaming attitudes: 

“She was plastered at after work drinks, so it’s no wonder he took advantage” 

“I heard they were having an affair and she’s only calling it sexual harassment now that he’s gone back to his wife” 

“Women do need to bear some responsibility for making bad choices if they end up in one of our taxis with some dodgy guy.” 

“It takes two to tango when it comes to sexual assault”  

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