Effective help requires a clear mind. If you are intoxicated you should have a sober friend in your company. And if you’re intoxicated you should think twice about responding to a help request – as you might risk your own safety or intervene inappropriately.
Don’t engage in shaming or victim blaming – or deny help to people under assault. Local customs are never a valid reason to engage in or support sexual or gender based violence, or the lack of provision of help in emergencies.
You have peer-influence over your friends, be they perpetrators or victims. If your classmate or co-worker/ colleague makes any inappropriate comment and behaves irresponsibly, take your mate aside and share your opinion about what is not acceptable. A real friend will get in your face if you are about to make a mistake. Respect them if they do.
Being alert does not only help to prevent being assaulted. It is also key to intervene as a helper, as one must first notice an event in order to intervene.
While violent and dangerous emergencies lower ambiguity and therefore reduce the bystander effect, sexual assault risk in many situations is ambiguous, similar to a traffic light in the yellow state:
Sexually abusive & violent
Age-inappropriate or non-mutual
Mutually flirtatious & playful
Healthy, age appropriate, mutually respectful & safe
When in traffic you shouldn’t think of crossing the street if the light is yellow. As a bystander, you should take a closer look.
While age-inappropriate acts are relatively easy to spot, non-mutual acts require a clear understanding of consensus. Don’t make any assumptions about:
Understand that consent to some forms of sexual behaviour does not necessarily imply consent to other forms of sexual behaviour.
If you notice an incident, or are being called for help, follow the STOP-Model: Security – Talk to the assaulted – Organise help – Peer-support
Intervene as prompt as possible: the earlier, the better. The best intervention strategy to prevent an assault is to speak up if a peer talks or behaves inappropriately, and thereby stopping the harassment when the harm done is relatively small. Stopping a potential incident early has the added benefit that the perpetrator is still little invested in the criminal act, and therefore more inclined to face the mistake committed and stop, instead of perceiving the situation as a no way back street with the possible effect of killing the victim and any witnesses.
First observe and evaluate the situation. Ask yourself: Do you understand what is going on? Is it clear who is assaulting whom? How many people are involved? Is physical violence present, or even weapons?
Accept the situation. Do not confuse acceptance with tolerance. You do not need to tolerate crime, but – if someone attacks you or if you are about to help someone – you need to accept the situation in order to be capable to act consciously and appropriately.
Listen to your inner voice – it should tell you: What is happening is not alright and I should and could do something.
Do not act headless – Before you initiate any intervention, think about your second step, as your first one might not work as imagined and try to stay calm.
Stay safe! Civil courage does not mean that you should act like a movie hero. If you endanger yourself, you are of help to nobody. Sometimes it is best to simply call the police because trying to intervene could attract harm to you. Even if you choose not to intervene – observe the ongoing assault to give the law enforcement a testimony if required.
… and get the assaulted out of the situation: If you feel capable to intervene, then create eye contact with and talk to the assaulted person. Try to ignore the perpetrator, and certainly don’t provoke, touch or insult them.
You can use simple phrases such as “hey, Deepa, it’s you, come over here to me..” or “you’re coming with us. We can’t leave you here and put you at risk for sexual assault” or “sorry, she/he’s too intoxicated to provide consent”.
By addressing the assaulted person you demonstrate that the assaulted person is not alone and that it is known to you. By taking on responsibility you lower bystanders evaluation apprehension – even if it is completely made up – and inspire them to intervene as well. Also, your signal will reach and distract the perpetrator – giving the attacked person a chance to flee or pausing the attack until the arrival of the police.
This works better than trying to calm down the perpetrator. It’s not about delivering justice, but about getting the assaulted person out of the situation – or at least deflecting a perpetrator in an ongoing assault until the police takes over.
Depending on the severeness of the assault, you want to create the distraction within an appropriate safety distance – for example by jelling and waving your arms – or by approaching the incident directly and get the assaulted person out of the situation – if the observed danger of the situation allows you so.
In case of an ongoing assault, or if the assaulted person requires medical assistance, you can contribute by organising additional help and coordinating the present helpers.
If required, ensure that the police is called. When calling the police be prepared to give a detailed description of who is doing what, a personal description of the perpetrator, and the location and landmarks of the incidence.
Understand that early-arrivers among the helpers are assumed by later-arrivers to be more informed about the situation, and thus judged more authoritative. Therefore it is your duty to exploit this mental authority and delegate the later-arriving helpers to support the survivor.
Address other helpers individually and give them a clear task, for example say “you in the red shirt, call the police” or “you in the black jacket get more helpers”.
If the activated bystanders start to take justice in their own hands – remember them that it is the police’s responsibility, and step back. As a CrowdGuard you make a complementary contribution to the work of police and justice. We differentiate clearly between civil courage and vigilantism. As citizens we have no responsibility, duty or right to execute any punishment! We respect the state monopoly on violence, which clearly rests with the police.
By creating a safe and respectful atmosphere you allow survivors of harassment and assaults to speak up and share their experience, and thereby return to normalcy.
Both, survivors and helpers, might suffer from an Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), as an incidence can be highly emotional and stressful experience. Thus it’s normal for a human to feel mental tensions short after the event.
If the assaulted person and the helpers are left to themselves, they could develop a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). To facilitate the return to normalcy and prevent a mental health problem, lend your peer support to the involved persons. Remember that prevention is an on-going process – by creating a healthy climate of openness and support you make your community more resilient.
If tensions continue after 3 days, you should additionally seek professional support as you might be at risk of developing a PTSD.
If you have been harassed or assaulted, don’t blame yourself! Sexual violence is an expression of gendered hierarchies, which need to be overcome. Harassments and physical assaults are crimes, and should be reported to the concerned authorities.
Most perpetrators are serial perpetrators. If it was done to you they will do it to others. You don’t only report it for yourself, but also to protect others from the perpetrator.
If you have witnessed an incident speak with the assaulted person and ask if you can be of assistance to reporting, for example as a witness. Thereby you assist the survivor in regaining control over the outcome — with control being an element that was taken from the person being assaulted.
Depending on the space where the incident occurred and the relationship between assaulted and accused person there may be multiple reporting venues available, which are not mutually exclusive:
The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA, 2005) enables a woman to seek protection, maintenance, custody of children, compensation and rights to a ‘shared household’ under civil law even without filing a criminal case of domestic violence at a police station. If the survivor wishes, she can additionally file a criminal complaint, see under police, IPC 498A.
You can file a domestic incident report (DIR) with the support of the Protection Officer (PO). If the survivor first approaches the police, a court, a hospital, shelter home or NGO, these parties are required to put her in touch with a Protection Officer. POs are state-appointed and provide their services free of cost, but may be overburdened and lack experience. If the PO is not reliable it’s advised to directly contact the Direct Women and Child Development Officer (DWDC Officer) who supervises the POs. Also, instead of approaching a PO the survivor has the option of directly approaching a magistrate through a private or legal aid lawyer.
In an emergency situation, such as if the woman faces violence at night or if she cannot immediately go to the police or PO, she or any other person on her behalf can give information of the incident to the PO or SP even through email or telephone. This can be done anytime during the day or even at night. The PO or SP will then herself go to the place where the incident has taken place with the police and record the DIR. They will then immediately present this DIR to the Magistrate for an immediate order to make sure that the woman is safe and violence is stopped.
If the magistrate court passes an interim or final order which is violated, the woman can complain to the magistrate, the police, or the Protection Officer. This initiates a criminal cognizable and non-bailable offense upon which the perpetrator can be imprisoned for up to one year or fined INR 20’000, or both.
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act (POSH, 2013) enables women – in roles as various as employees, customer, visitor, member, etc – to file a complaint at the complaint committee of the employer of the offender. The POSH procedure provides deadline bound and therefore relatively fast complaint resolvement, and allows the workplace to put in place restraint orders, for example to avoid a situation where the complainant has to face physical presence of the accused during the resolvement process. Similar to the Domestic Incident Report, a workplace harassment complaint is complementary to filing a FIR at the police.
As civil law procedure, workplace organisations are free to voluntarily add obligations and protections in their Code of Conduct. Progressive organisations have started to provide gender-neutral harassment protections and invite every community member to initiate a complaint if their experience or observe non-appropriate behaviour.
Every workplace with 10 or more employees is legally mandated to maintain an internal complaint committee (ICC). If the incident occurred at a workplace with less than 10 staff, the accused person is part of the ICC or the organisation’s management, or a workplace with 10 or more staff has not constituted an ICC, the complaint can be filed at the local complaint committee (LCC) which ought to be constituted by the District Officer. The POSH Act has a broad definition of workplace, which include formal and the informal sector workplaces. For example, a maid harassed by the son of the household she works at can file a workplace harassment complaint at the LCC (assumed that less than 10 staff are employed by this particular household).
Prior to the initiation of the inquiry by the ICC or the LCC, the complainant can request the complaint committee to moderate a conciliation which must not be primarily based on monetary gains.
Indian Penal Code (IPC) sanctions criminal acts. To open a criminal case, contact the police and file a First Information Report (FIR). A FIR must have the date, time and place of the illegal act; name and address of the person you are accusing/blaming for this offence; name of witnesses. If you give the complaint orally, then the police will write it down for you. Get a copy of your FIR and make sure that all the written details match with your complaint.
An FIR need not be filed by you. Your parent, relative or friend can file it with your consent. And you don’t need to go to the police station to record your statement in case of rape. The police are required to come to your residence or any other place convenient to you for recording it.
An FIR should be filed at the nearest police station. But this is not a strict requirement: You can file a Zero FIR in any police station irrespective of place of incident and police jurisdiction. The Zero FIR is later transferred to the appropriate Police Station. However police officers usually deny knowing about Zero FIR and direct the complainant to concerned Police Station.
If the police refuses to file a complaint, you can send a letter in writing or by post to the Superintendent of the Police of your complaint, and you can write a complaint to the Magistrate. Any refusal by a police officer to record a FIR in cases of sexual harassment or rape shall result in imprisonment which may extend from 6 months to 2 years along with a fine (S.166, I.P.C.).
Reporting is difficult and the system has been and still is failing many who stand-up and file a report. Some have understandably lost hope in institutional accountability and resort to public naming & shaming by ‘reporting’ online, such as on facebook, twitter or personal blog.
By forgoing due process to get personal justice we risk the fundamentals of justice, and seek retribution in a way which may be less accessible to the common woman as social network leverages social capital which is unevenly distributed.
We therefore advice to complain at the designated authorities. If they are unresponsive, you should name & shame both, the accused perpetrator and the unresponsive institution, to alert fellow humans.
It is illegal to reveal the name or identity of a rape survivor. The police can’t disclose it to the media, and the media can’t publish the same. The judicial proceedings must be held behind closed doors. The general public or even the reporters can’t come in and watch the trial.
Double check the written complaint or any report, be they from police or medical, that they are factually true. Click a picture of the FIR and other evidence. Make sure that evidence is comprehensive as it will make the case stronger. Keep a copy of original documents in case documents are tempered with.
Sexual assault can be off penetrative and non-penetrative nature. Police might ask the survivor to conduct a medical test, even though there is no requirement for any medical test after non-penetrative sexual assault. The police often are not aware of this and ask every survivor to take a medical examination because it is mandatory for them to ask.
In case of penetrative assault the police will send you for a medical examination at the earliest. Alternatively you can go directly to a hospital for a medical examination. Do not take a bath or shower because it would result in loss of important evidence.
The medical examination is to be done at the earliest, preferably within 24 hours. It cannot be done without your consent or the consent of someone on your behalf. The doctor conducting the medical examination will make a report with all details regarding the name and age, consent given, DNA evidence found, etc. Ask the doctor for a copy of the medical report.
All private and public hospitals are mandated to provide free aid and medical treatment to all survivors of acid attacks and rape (note that by Indian Penal Code only women can be raped. Additionally, rape by husbands is only considered if the couple lives separated), and any refusal shall result in imprisonment for a period which may extend to one year or with fine or both (S.166B, I.P.C.) of the person in charge of such a hospital.
Keep confidentiality and consent in mind. Be supportive but don’t control the outcome.