What you can do
As the person subjected to it, you get to decide what is unwelcome or uncomfortable for you. Sometimes it is difficult to know immediately whether something is acceptable. If you feel ill-treated in any way, trust your feelings and tell someone about it. Do not assume that you should need to tolerate things that you feel are difficult to deal with, such as sexist jokes or jargon.
It is never your fault if you are subjected to harassment
It is never your fault if you are subjected to harassment – nobody has the right to harass you, no matter what clothes you wear, what your life choices are or what relationship you have with the person harassing you. It is very common for people who have been subjected to harassment to avoid reporting it or speaking out about it. Often this is due to worry that the incident feels too trivial, anxiety about needing to confront the offender and concern as to how this is going to affect the working or study environment. Another reason is lack of confidence that the report will achieve anything.
If you choose to speak out about it, we can deal with it, take action and change Chalmers culture so that fewer people will be subjected to harassment in the future. You are probably not the only person who has been ill-treated, so you can help towards putting a stop to the harassment.
There does not have to be a purpose or deliberate intention for an incident to count as discrimination. Behaviour being experienced as negative by the person subjected to it may also be due to ignorance or misunderstanding. The person doing the harassing needs to understand how their action is experienced by the recipient. It is therefore important that, if you feel harassed, you tell the person who is harassing you that their behaviour is unpleasant and unwelcome. In certain situations, it is so clear that the behaviour is unwelcome and unpleasant that there is no requirement for this to be pointed out.
If you have done something
If someone tells you that they perceive your behaviour as offensive, it is important to listen and try to understand. Do not become defensive – it is important to think about how others perceive what we say and do, and there is always something to be learned when someone says that a particular behaviour is not acceptable.
The purpose of the Swedish Discrimination Act is to protect individuals from ill-treatment, but it does not regulate people’s values or opinions. Chalmers’ zero tolerance of discrimination and harassment is not about limiting people’s values but exists rather to protect individuals from discriminatory acts. In other words, we may think and believe what we want, but what the legislation prohibits, and Chalmers does not tolerate, are acts where people are treated unfairly or offensively due to any of the grounds of discrimination.
If you witness something
If you notice a situation that you perceive as discrimination, harassment or victimisation, you should intervene. You can do this by:
- not accepting the behaviour and making this clear to the person offending;
- listening to the person who is being subjected to it and providing support;
- telling the manager/Head of Programme or reporting to Safe at Chalmers.
Intervening does not have to be difficult or require great courage. We provide some tips to help you along the way. The most important thing is to start, continue and keep going, and it will soon become like any other habit. You may notice that it is contagious and soon more of you are helping one another.
Tips for intervening and providing support
If it feels right …
- speak out right away. Simply calling something out can do a lot to interrupt the situation, attracting the attention of both the perpetrator and other observers. It can be as simple as a ‘What did you say?’ Or ‘That is not acceptable to me, so we are not going to have this conversation.’
- speak out afterwards. It is easy to miss the opportunity to have an impact on the situation or not to know what to do. But you can still show your support and act by talking to the people involved afterwards and either telling them that something was not acceptable or asking whether someone is all right. This simple act can make an enormous difference for both parties.
- immediately take a stand on the side of the victim, possibly by physically placing yourself between them and the person creating the situation. You could also interrupt what is happening and create a distraction, such as by addressing the person who is being subjected to the unwanted attention and asking something like, ‘Excuse me, where did you get those tasty canapes?’ You could make eye contact with the victim either immediately or afterwards, and ask them whether they are all right, telling them you saw/heard what had happened. Alternatively, you could ask these questions by email if it feels awkward to do so at the time. Showing support can make the subject feel less vulnerable. It is never wrong to show concern, even if that particular situation did not in fact require help.
- explain what happened to a co-worker/fellow student or a friend. Ask them for advice on what to do next or what you might do another time.
- talk to your line manager or boss and make them aware of the situation. If it is a situation you have seen before, it is particularly serious and the manager has an obligation to look into it.
- tell Safe at Chalmers.