Right To Be
Policy Recommendations
Our Approach

Right To Be recommends policy strategies that prioritize education, prevention, and reporting when it comes to harassment. We do not recommend strategies that increase criminalization of harassment.

Here’s why: We see harassment as a symptom of big societal issues, like racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, ableism, and others…not as the result of “a few bad eggs.” Harassment is a learned behavior that’s been normalized in our inequitable society; it’s not a personality trait that some people have and others don’t. When you understand harassment as a societal problem rather than an individual one, the criminalization approach starts to feel more like playing “whack-a-mole” than like meaningful change.

Time and time again, we’ve heard from communities that experience harassment the most – young people, LBGTQ+ individuals, people of color, immigrants, and others – that they feel less safe with police present after harassment happens, due to the history of police brutality and related practices. Furthermore, too often we see criminal laws disproportionately applied to people of color, low-income individuals, and trans and gender-nonconforming people.

We recommend that policymakers invest in the following solutions to combat harassment...
Bystander Education

Bystander education is a well researched best practice for addressing violence. Research shows that bystanders are more likely to take action when they:

– have empathy for the people experiencing violence, and

– when they are familiar with a range of options for intervention.

On public transit and in public space, we recommend that bystander ads be the standard for anti-harassment public service announcements (examples include those developed in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Louisville). These ads should direct their audiences to additional resources, including bystander tips, places to report, and information on legal rights. To complement such PSA ad campaigns, we recommend developing flyers and related materials for distribution at subway stations. We also recommend printing information about what to do if you experience harassment on the leaflets attached to student metrocards, and including this information in new student packets.

In schools, we recommend implementing bystander intervention training at the middle and high school levels. If your school is interested in training, please reach out to us at training@righttobe.org. We offer discounted training to schools, and when grant-funding allows, we also provide free training to at-risk groups.

Improve Research and Reporting Systems

Reporting harassment is more complicated than just going to the police. Many people worry that they won’t be taken seriously if they report their experience of harassment to the police. Moreover, not everyone feels safe or comfortable with the idea of involving the police. It is also not always clear which behaviors are illegal and thus likelier to receive police attention, and which aren’t illegal and are likelier to be ignored.

Yet at the same time, our research shows that when someone who’s experienced harassment shares their story, it helps to reduce their trauma and support their long-term healing.

To address these concerns, we recommend an online reporting platform with two main features. First, it should allow people to share their stories of harassment, as anonymously or openly as they would like, with Right To Be or another nonprofit organization. Second, it should give the user the option to simply click a button to send their report to other agencies such as the local Commission on Human Rights, City Council, or police if they choose.

We recommend such a system because it is designed to center the agency of the person who was harassed, and to give them as much control over their experience as possible. On the platform we describe, people would be invited to share their story only once in their own words, rather than being asked to repeat or relive their traumatic moment multiple times for multiple audiences or interviewers. Their story would be protected by a trusted nonprofit with expertise in the field. And they would have the choice to take further reporting action without feeling required to do so.

Such a reporting platform would also allow Right To Be or another trusted partner in the anti-harassment movement to collect aggregate data on harassment without exposing or compromising the identities and security of individuals who share their story of harassment. This data would provide insight from a wider range of people who experience harassment, as not everyone feels safe reporting directly to governmental agencies. The aggregate data could be publicized in an annual report with recommendations to address and prevent harassment.

To achieve an even broader scope of the problem of harassment, we recommend that self-reporting be paired with population-wide surveys. We recommend adding questions about the prevalence and impact of harassment into existing measures, such as the Department of Health’s annual Community Health Survey. We also recommend investing in research on how harassment impacts community members’ decisions related to work, housing, and education.

Training for Transit Officers and Police

Often, women, LGBTQ+ people, and gender-nonconforming people report insensitivity, including outright refusal to file a report, when they try to report an incident of harassment or seek help. To address this issue, we recommend providing transit workers and the police with training on what harassment looks like, current processes, and how to appropriately respond to someone who experienced it.

Right To Be has trained the New York City Police Department and the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet). For information on trainings, email training@righttobe.org.

Community Safety Audits

Community safety audits can create safer cities and communities. In a safety audit, community members come together to walk through a physical environment, evaluate how safe it feels to them, identify ways to make the space safer, and organize to bring about those changes. Not only can safety audits bring attention to harassment and violence in public spaces, but they can also offer creative, community-centered solutions.

Engage and Train Local Businesses

A common escape strategy used by those experiencing street harassment is to duck into storefronts for safety. Store employees should be trained in providing support to people fleeing situations of harassment. Trained businesses could utilize campaigns that signal themselves as “safe spaces” by displaying a sign or sticker in their front windows. This would build a sense of community care while driving business.

We supported local activists in London on The Good Night Out campaign to train restaurant, bar, and nightlife owners in responding when they witnessed harassment. We are also a partner of the Open to All campaign.

OUR UPCOMING TRAININGS

Right To Be

Upcoming training

How to Respond to Harassment for People Experiencing Anti-Asian/American Harassment

June 2, 2022

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST

Right To Be

Upcoming training

How to Respond to Harassment for People Experiencing Anti-Asian/American Harassment

June 2, 2022

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST

Other resources you may like...

Training

How To Lead Discussions About Racism: A Primer For Facilitators

This training aims to foster welcoming spaces for conversation. Learn more about what you can learn ...
Guide

The 5Ds of Bystander Intervention

This guide shows you how to intervene safely when you witness disrespect or harassment, using Right ...
Guide

SHOW UP: Your Guide to Bystander Intervention

We collaborated with the Center for Urban Pedagogy to create this printable, public access design PD...
Training

How To Lead Discussions About Racism: A Primer For Facilitators

This training aims to foster welcoming spaces for conversation. Learn more about what you can learn ...
Guide

The 5Ds of Bystander Intervention

This guide shows you how to intervene safely when you witness disrespect or harassment, using Right ...
Guide

SHOW UP: Your Guide to Bystander Intervention

We collaborated with the Center for Urban Pedagogy to create this printable, public access design PD...
Guide

Responding to Public Harassment

Your safety is the first priority. If you choose to respond directly to someone harassing you, we ha...
Guide

Defining Workplace Harassment

Was it harassment, disrespect, bias, or something else? This guide explains how harassment in the wo...
Training

Sexual Harassment Prevention In The Workplace

At Right To Be, we believe sexual harassment training doesn’t have to be boring. We’re here to show ...
Guide

How to Talk to the Person Who Disrespected You at Work

Here are five steps to help you set boundaries, take back your power, and move towards healing and c...
Guide

Responding to Workplace Harassment: Understanding Your Options

There are many ways to respond to workplace harassment, but none of them are perfect or easy. Read o...
Guide

Employee’s Guide to Workplace Investigations and Aftermath

What actually happens after you report harassment or discrimination at work? This resource is design...
Guide

Healing and Getting Closure After Harassment at Work

It’s easy to assume you’ll feel a sense of closure once the person who harassed you faces "justice."...
Guide

Right To Be's Workplace Policies

We are committed to transparency and believe our workplace policies should be as transparent as our ...
Guide

Online Harassment Resources

You have the right to be online without experiencing harassment. This guide links multiple resources...

YOU ARE POWERFUL

Remember, everyone can do something. At this time in our history, it is even more important that we show up for one another as active bystanders. Research shows that even a knowing glance can significantly reduce trauma for the person who is targeted. One of the most important things we can do is to let the person who is targeted know, in some way, however big or small, that they are not alone.

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