A powerful new video from Government of Ontario encourages us to be witnesses, not bystanders, when it comes to sexual harassment.
A new video by the government of Ontario titled #WhoWillYouHelp addresses some of the rarely mentioned issues surrounding rape culture and sexual harassment. The video, which shows different ways in which men can sexually harass or assault women, shows the guilty parties looking at the camera and thanking the viewer for their silence.
It had a powerful effect on me and I hope the video leads to a wider discussion of rape culture and makes some people rethink their behaviour.
The video opens with a young man thanking the viewer for keeping their mouth shut while he and his friends recorded themselves sexually assaulting a drunk girl at a party.
Then, in a workplace, a man creepily rubs the shoulders of an unreceptive co-worker. “Thanks for minding your own business,” he says to the camera.
The ad continues in a school hallway where a young man is showing private pictures of a young woman to his friends, “thanks for not telling my girlfriend,” he says to the viewer.
Then, finally, a man at a bar slips a white powder into a woman’s drink while she isn’t looking. “Thanks for not telling anyone,” he says, disgustingly.
Why #WhoWillYouHelp is so effective
What makes the video so effective, I believe, is that it shows bystanders to these heinous acts as complicit in their execution. It shows us that not standing up and becoming a witness to these crimes is what allows them to continue in the first place.
“When you do nothing, you are helping him,” says the narrator in the ad. “But when you do something, you are helping her.”
Thankfully the video ends on a hopeful note.
“Thanks for telling the bartender… Thanks for stopping him… Thanks for telling HR… Thanks for getting help,” say the women from earlier the ad.
#WhoWillYouHelp in the workplace?
While this ad predominately features people in social settings, like at parties or at bars, I would like to focus in on the workplace aspect of the campaign.
I believe the #WhoWillYouHelp campaign can be just as relevant in the workplace as it is on the schoolyard or online. It is the complacency of far too many bystanders that allows workplace sexual harassment to occur and continue.
While sexual harassment at work is also an issue for men, women continue to disproportionately be targeted by their male coworkers or superiors. In fact, 43% of women in Canada say they have been sexually harassed at work.
Co-workers, especially male co-workers, need to become witnesses –or whistleblowers– if we want to stop this awful behaviour. Unfortunately, it’s negative and hostile workplace cultures that allow good people to stand idly by while sexual assault occurs in the workplace –and it has been that way forever.
When workers are in a hostile work environment they often don’t feel empowered enough to stand up for their fellow co-workers. They fear the social –and often professional– consequences of speaking out and instead fall silent, complicit in the awful deed.
I call on everyone to ask themselves #WhoWillYouHelp when it comes to workplace sexual harassment. Because I can tell you that the answer is simple – you should be helping those in need. They need action, and not your silence.