See Something, Say Something

The phrase took on a new meaning for me last week.

Reading about a recent, anti-Muslim harassing on the orange line got me thinking once again about public safety and how I might react to a similar situation. I don’t consider myself a particularly brave person, but I think it’s important to speak up and defend others and make it known that hate is not acceptable, in private or public spaces.

Hollaback! is a global organization that aims to end harassment and offers regular trainings and workshops – one of which offers tips for intervening when you see harassment on the street, on the T or out shopping. First, you should always assess your own safety before taking any action to intervene. It’s like I learned in Boy Scouts years ago, step one is always to make sure you are approaching a safe situation before offering first aid to others – two injured people does not a safer situation make. Beyond that, Metro US shares the five D’s of what to do if you see someone being harassed.

Direct Interaction: I’m cautious to use this tactic as it seems likely that the direct confrontation will escalate the situation.

Distract: It’s as simple as striking up a mundane conversation with the target of the harassment. Remove both parties from the situation by asking questions like “How’s your day going? Where are you headed? Do you know how to get to this T stop? I like your shirt – where’d you get it from?” It’s important to ignore the harasser, thereby deescalating the situation.

Delegation: Always use the resources available to you to report harassment you see – namely, transit  employees, police or security personnel.

Delay: These uncomfortable situations often crop up suddenly and unexpectedly. It might be nice to check in with the person being targeted to see if they’re okay.

Document: I’ll always have my phone on me when commuting or out in public in general. It’s easy enough to take your phone camera out to record conversations.

Sharon Tracy, executive director and cofounder of Quabbin Mediation in Orange, reminds Globe readers to remain realistic and to remember that danger is real. She goes on to say, “Calling the police in most situations is a good idea.”

I hope I’ll never have to be confronted with any such situation, but that’s the reality of the world today and I want to do my best to be prepared. It’s like those posters on the T and at the airport always say: “See something, say something.”

Posted by Mike

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