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What can I do when witnessing sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is an unfortunately all too common occurrence in the workplace. As a result, co-workers often witness harassment as it happens, which leaves them in an awkward position. Of course, doing the right thing is crucial, but you might also have concerns about retaliation if you call attention to another person's inappropriate behavior. This is especially true when the person doing the harassing is a supervisor or some other authority figure. Marketwatch explains some of the steps you can take if you witness sexual harassment at your place of work. 

Sometimes, just placing yourself in the middle of a situation can provide the victim a way out. For instance, if you notice harassing behaviors when two people are isolated in an area of the office, try to inject yourself into the conversation in a non-confrontational way. You can even invite the victim to get coffee with you, just so she can get away from the harasser. While this is only a temporary solution, it could get the ball rolling for more aggressive measures. 

At some point, you may feel comfortable addressing the harasser directly. You don't need to be threatening or aggressive, but you should make it known that the person's behavior is not appropriate. In some cases, this may frighten the harasser into ceasing his attempts or advances, which takes the pressure off the victim. However, your comments might not have much of an impact. If so, you'll need to take a more formal approach. 

You can report instances of harassment to management, even if they don't involve you directly. Clearly state the facts of the circumstances, including dates and times when the harassment took place. At this point, management will be forced to launch an investigation, or the employer could be held accountable for not appropriately dealing with the issue. Before speaking to management, it's a good idea to speak with the person being harassed. Make sure they're OK with you going to management before proceeding. 

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