Bystander Intervention

Quick Exit

Preventing Sexual Harassment: Your Role Matters

Whether it's checking yourself or saying something when your friend makes someone feel uncomfortable. 

On this page: 

What is sexual harassment? 

Why is it important to act

What can you do

What is sexual harassment? 

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual behaviour that can make someone feel humiliated, unsafe, or degraded.  

It can be: 

  • Verbal: making jokes or sexual remarks either directly to someone or about them. 

  • Physical: touching or grabbing someone, including purposefully brushing up against someone. 

  • Visual: staring at someone in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. 

  • Technological: sending messages, images, or videos to someone that makes them feel humiliated, unsafe, or degraded.  


  • Repeatedly asking someone on a date even though they have already said no or indicated they aren’t interested?  Harassment. Ignore No More.

  • Staring at someone in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable?  Harassment. Ignore No More.

  • Touching someone in a sexual way without their consent?  Harassment. Ignore No More.

​It doesn't matter if you didn't mean to cause harm - If someone feels uncomfortable about your actions you need to stop.

Why is it important to act?

  1. Ignoring harassment makes it seem like it's okay, but it's not. Speaking up sends a message to the harasser, the person affected, and others that harassment is not okay. 
  2. Speaking up gives others the courage to speak up or act too.
  3. Sexual harassment often comes before more escalated sexual violence. By intervening in sexual harassment, we can stop other forms of violence before they start.  

What can you do?

Every situation will be different depending on who is involved and what is done. It’s important to say or do something only when it's safe for you and those around you.  

Direct: Confronting the comment or behaviour. Remember, you are challenging the attitude, not the person, so keep your response non-personal:   

  • “Hey mate, that’s harassment. It’s clear they’re not interested”. 

  • “Bro, you shouldn’t say that”. 

  • “What do you mean by that?” 

It's not a debate. Keep your sentences short and clear and stay calm – aggressive or angry bystanders aren’t helpful. 

Distract: Diffusing the situation by redirecting the attention of the harasser or helping to remove the person being targeted: 

  • You can pretend to recognise or know the person.  
  • Offer to leave the environment with them. 

  • Call them over to join your group. 

  • Change the topic.

If you are part of a conversation and want to distract, you can divert the conversation away from inappropriate comments by changing the topic.

  • “We probably shouldn’t talk about them like that while they’re not here, what’s everyone up to this weekend?” 

Delay:  If it doesn’t feel possible for you to say or do something at the time, you can always follow up with either the harasser or the person targeted: 

  • “Hey mate, I just wanted to check in about what you said before, it made them feel really uncomfortable”. 

It’s important someone checks in with the person targeted to let them know what happened wasn’t okay, and to ask if they are okay.  

  • “Hey, I saw what happened back there. That wasn’t cool. Are you okay?” 

Delegate: We need to understand our limits, sometimes it’s not safe for you to intervene. 

If this is the case, you can always delegate the situation to someone else.  

  • If you see someone in danger of physical or sexual violence, you can always call Campus Security (03 8344 6666) or the Police (000). 
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