Being a victim of harassment is horrible, and so is witnessing it happening to someone else. But what should you do in that situation? Are there certain rules? What if you don’t do anything? Should you ignore it? Should you fight back?

Being in the moment can totally throw you, but this little guide will hopefully give you the basics to remember if you ever end up in the middle of something nasty.

What counts as harassment?

Harassment is any behaviour from someone that makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened. It could mean unwanted texts, online and offline abuse (verbal and physical), stalking, or threats.

Pretty nasty stuff, right?

The kind of harassment we want to tackle in this guide is public abuse, either on the streets or on public transport. This kind is often classed as a ‘hate crime’.

What’s the difference between harassment and a hate crime?

Hate crime is a specific type of harassment that’s based on prejudice. You’re a victim of hate crime if you’ve been or are being abused for the colour of your skin, religion, sexuality, gender, or disability.

Being a victim of a hate crime can be a harrowing experience, but there are many people and organisations out there who can and will listen and support you.

I’m being harassed RIGHT NOW, what do I do?!

Try to not panic. You will be ok. The main thing to remember is not to engage with this person, as they’re likely irrationally riled up and threatening. Your safety comes first.

The British Transport Police (BTP) have a number you can text to report any crime or unwanted behaviour on public transport. Text what’s happening and your location to 61016. This is especially helpful if you need to be subtle and can’t call 999.

Sometimes it can be SO tempting to turn around and tell this person why they’re being such a massive knob, but the sad truth is: if someone has started harassing you in public then they’re clearly confident enough to do so, and are unlikely to listen.

BUT, there are some things you can do, as well as reporting the incident.

If you’re on public transport:

– Try and move carriages/seats
– Get off at the next stop if you feel in danger
– Look for the nice faces of people who want to help you.

If you’re on the streets then:

– Just keep walking
– Make sure you stay where there’s lots of people – ie. don’t go down any side streets
– However tempting it may be, don’t look at the perpetrator
– Maybe put some earphones in or read a book (this goes for being on public transport, too).

Just remember to not give the big baby any attention. They’ll soon get bored when nobody’s listening to them.

Can I report it afterwards?

Absolutely! You can report it even months afterwards, and we’d encourage you to do so if you feel comfortable doing it. You can speak to station staff if you’re travelling by train, the bus/tram driver if it’s safe to, or the police. You can dial 999, text BTP on 61016, or call BTP on 0800 40 50 40 at any time.

You might feel like the incident wasn’t actually that bad, or that nobody will listen to you, or that there are worse things for the police to be tackling, but you are completely within your rights to report a hate crime or harassment. That person could end up doing worse things to other people and anyway, your feelings are valid. You should never have to put up with behaviour that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

What about if I see it happening to someone else?

It can be so, so hard to know what to do in this situation. You likely feel like you should DO something to stop it, but also feel terrified. And that’s ok! Your fight/flight response will kick in and your body may well freeze, run away, or try to tackle the situation. Don’t be ashamed by your reaction.

The general advice from the British Transport Police is to not engage with the perpetrator, especially if they’re angry and violent as that could make the situation worse. Instead, it’s better to talk to the victim. One woman has even created a cartoon to help bystanders support someone during a hate crime – the main points to remember are:

– Stand or sit with the victim so they know they’re supported

– Talk about rubbish with them! Ask how they are, comment on the weather, or ask what they’re having for dinner tonight.

– In an ideal situation, more people will then join you (it always just takes one person to encourage others) and you’ll create a buffer between the perpetrator and victim.

– Creating these safe spaces will be so important to the victim, and supporting them is way more important than confronting the douchebag harasser.

– Ask the victim if they want you to get off the train/bus/tram with them and stay until they feel comfortable, or if they want some support reporting the incident.

– Remember, you can encourage them to report it, but you can’t force them. It’s important to let them be in charge.

– If you can’t stick with the victim during the incident, you can always try to record it if it’s safe to do so. This will provide solid evidence for the police. And it might be tempting to share this on social media, but it’s always best to contact the police first.

I feel crap about what I experienced. What shall I do?

It’s totally normal for something like this to affect you. You could feel anxious and low immediately afterwards, or even in a few months’ time. But thankfully there are many organisations who can help you feel better.

Victim Support can give you practical and emotional support, and can help you with the process of reporting and dealing with harassment/a hate crime. Visit their website here.

True Vision can give you more information on how to report a hate crime. They offer a service where you can report the crime anonymously online, which may feel less intimidating.

Tell MAMA supports victims of anti-Muslim hate. They have heaps of specialised information and you can even speak to them via WhatsApp.

Stop Hate UK is charity supporting all victims and witnesses of hate crime, and have specialised support for LGBTQ+, trans, and disabled victims of hate crime.

Community Security Trust is a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism. They have lots of information and a reporting service.

The Mix is a charity supporting all under-25s in the UK with any issue. You can speak to their trained team via their helpline, forums, email, or one-to-one chats.

Childline can support you if you’re under 19. Their support is also available via phone, email, and one-to-one chats.

Being harassed or witnessing a hate crime can be horrible experiences, but always remember that you’re in control of how you deal with it afterwards. There are so many people out who will be on your side, including us! You’re amazing and important, whoever you are, and we can all do our bit to help put a stop to harassment and hateful behaviour.

@louisejonesetc

Image: Unsplash

So… er… sexting.

Sexting?

Yes, sexting.

What are you talking about?

Well, the definition of sexting is sending or receiving any messages that can be considered sexual. This means sexually explicit texts/emails, but most of the time when people talk about sexting they’re talking about photos or videos where someone is naked or half clothed and…

No, I know what sexting is, but why are you talking about it?

Because people don’t, really, and that means it’s hard to know what to do if sexting goes wrong and the person you sent your carefully posed selfie to decides to share it round the whole year. You can feel ashamed or guilty and like there’s no way out — but there are things you can do! Knowledge is power, so let’s make like Mario and level up.

The most important thing to know about sexting is that once you send a photo or text, you have no control over what happens to it. The person you sent it to might keep it to themselves or they might put it on Instagram. They might treasure it forever as a symbol of your love, or they might show everyone at the bus stop. It’s a big risk to take and you need to make sure you’re willing to take it.

If it’s so risky, why do people do it?

Lots of reasons. Sometimes because they just want to. Other times because they like how they look and want to show it off. But sometimes they send photos because they’re pressured to — their crush might be telling them they’re frigid or shy, or they feel like it’s a normal part of a relationship, or they feel like everyone else is doing it, or they keep being asked for them and it feels like it’s easier to just say yes.

The second most important thing to know about sexting is that you are under absolutely no obligation to do it. It doesn’t make you frigid if you don’t, you don’t have to do it just because you’re in a relationship, and I’d bet my laptop that not “everyone” else is doing it. If you don’t want to sext, you don’t have to. End of.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • It’s illegal to share private sexual photos or videos, unless the person in them says it’s ok.
  • It's also illegal to post, possess or even take sexual photos or videos of someone who is under 18 – even yourself.
  • If you don't want to sext, you don't have to. End of.

Um… I sexted someone and now I wish I hadn’t. What should I do?

Start by having a chat with the person you sent the messages to. Ask them if they’ve sent it to anyone else and if they’ll delete it. Hopefully it’ll be a no to the first one, a yes to the second one, and you can carry on with your life.

But even if things don’t go that smoothly, there are still things you can do. As awkward as it might feel, a good thing to do is talk to your parent/guardian or a teacher as soon as possible as the quicker they can get to the image, the quicker they’ll be able to stop it from being shared around and give the git responsible a good telling off.

The person I sent the photo to has put it on Facebook…

And this is where things start to get a little bit more serious. If someone is posting these photos on social networks, report the image and the social network should take it down. For other websites or just because you don’t believe in half-measures you can contact the Internet Watch Foundation. They’re like the Batman of criminal sexual online content.

Criminal content?!

Oh yes. There was a law passed in 2015 that means it’s illegal to share private sexual photos or videos unless the person in them says it’s ok. Sharing someone’s sexts isn’t just a crappy thing to do, it’s also against the law.

Also, if you’re under 18, it’s illegal to post sexual photos or videos of under 18s online. That’s a triple whammy of badness right there.

Although actually, it’s also illegal to possess sexual photos/videos or take sexual photos/videos of under-18s, which means that even if you’re merrily sexting away and not having any issues with it being shared around, even taking sexual photos or videos of yourself is actually breaking the law. Soz.

Okay, it’s been taken down and I won’t do it any more. Thanks betty!

No problem — it’s what we’re here for. Wait, does that make us the Batman of criminal sexual online content…?

But someone else is already pressuring me to send a photo. What should I do?

You can just say no, again and again and again until they get the message. Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If they’re trying to make you feel guilty for not sending a photo you can sweetly remind them that that’s emotional blackmail – anyone with half a conscience will leave you alone.

If they don’t back off, you can block them on every communication channel under the sun. And if they’re super persistent and still nagging you, ask for help. Show screenshots of their messages to your mum, their mum, a teacher, a local newsreader, actual Batman, whoever you like. You can always ask for help in dealing with it if you need to.

But don’t give in and send a photo just to shut them up. You don’t have to do that just because they keep asking.

Bottom line: it’s your body, and you get to say what you do with it.

Need more info on sexting? Take a look at the Childline site and watch their helpful videos.