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wellbeing 10mins

Respect starts with me

By Caleb 16 Mar 2021

Trigger Warning: This content discusses sexual assault and violence

Respect starts with me. Unfortunately, many of us may be confronted with the uncomfortable subject of sexual harassment and assault in our lives, but we don’t know how we can intervene as bystanders. The recent decades have seen greater attention put to the question of how we prevent these incidents from occurring, which can be seen through many social movements aimed at highlighting the prevalence of harassment in society.

As I write this, a march is taking place to raise awareness of sexual assault in Canberra and call for reforms to improve accountability. With each movement, we reflect on the integral question of 'how do we fix this?', and I believe the answer lies within all of us to choose ‘respect’.

I recently completed a USQ online module on the Respect. Now. Always. campaign which explained the prevalence and nature of sexual harassment and assault on university campuses. The module is easy to find in StudyDesk and helps break down how we can provide support to victims and become an active bystander to better our university experience for all students.

Sexual harassment and assault can occur to anyone of any gender, background, or age – but we can help prevent it! It might seem daunting, but I have seen in my own life that we can prevent these situations by starting at even the seemingly smallest issues.

By calling out sexist or uncomfortable language, and by reinforcing what is acceptable, we make a commitment against these behaviours. Sometimes, this can actually have the biggest impact! This is what it means to be an active bystander – seeing a problem and calling it out. 

"The answer lies within all of us choosing ‘respect’."

A frequently asked question is how to refer to people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault. Both terms are applicable, though RAINN generally use the term 'victim' when referring to someone recently affected by sexual violence, a particular crime, or when referring to aspects of the criminal justice system. Whereas 'survivor' is used to refer to someone who has gone through the recovery process or when discussing the short-or long-term effects of sexual violence.

It is important to remember that some people may identify as a victim and others may identify as a survivor. A part of our role as active bystanders is to respectfully understand a person’s preference. This forms one of the goals of the Respect. Now. Always campaign as a way to better inform us on these topics. 

My time working with the others has shown me how some attitudes or standards are commonplace and many people simply don’t understand how it can be harmful to others. I have witnessed this in my family circles and with friends, demonstrating just how prevalent harassment can be! However, by actively informing friends and family, real change can be seen in behaviour as others learn more about how words and actions impact others.

This forms a method of intervention, which is a set of methods we can use to intervene. We all have the power to create a world free from sexual harassment and it starts by being an active bystander.

So how can we be an active bystander? The Respect. Now. Always. module is a handy resource for this and breaks down four recommended methods.

  • Direct intervention is intervening as it occurs, such as calling out the behaviour or assisting the victim in leaving the situation. 
  • Indirect can include a myriad of options such as calling for police or support services or asking others for assistance. The university has a number of resources available for this including counselling, anonymous complaints or by speaking to staff. 
  • Distraction is another method and includes using other matters to draw the perpetrator away from their behaviour. 
  • Protocol can be used to enforce university standards and expectations to remind others of what is accepted here.

Each method can be used to effectively call out unacceptable behaviours. A good start is to enrol in the Respect. Now. Always module to learn more about how you help support victims and call out harassment where you see it.

There are also a variety of support services and organisations you can disclose incidents you witness including the police or university staff. To directly contact the university, you can speak to the Health and Wellness team by email or by phone at +61 7 4631 2372. Alternatively, you can anonymously file a complaint via email at anonymous@usq.edu.au, make a formal complaint, or contact a staff member you trust.

"Respect starts with me."

Sexual harassment, violence or assault can occur anywhere. In our homes, places of employment, and university spaces – but we can prevent it too. Whether through the four methods of intervention or by contacting others to report incidents, we can help raise awareness of issues we witness and drive change.

By doing so we make our world a better, safer place. All it takes to start is to commit to always being respectful to others and call out wrong behaviours when we see it. Respect starts with me. We drive the change we want to see in the world.

Should any of the content released under the Respect at USQ Campaign raise concerns or cause distress, please contact USQ Health and Wellness team on 07 4631 2372,  access 1800RESPECT or visit www.usq.edu.au/respect.