Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election has unleashed a wave of reports of racist incidents and verbal assaults on minorities. There have been painted swastikas, threats to a Muslim teacher, verbal assaults on non-English speakers and threatening shouts at a black Starbucks employee.
Many episodes happen in public places, in the presence of witnesses. Do you know what to do if you witness such an incident? Do you know how to help a person who is suffering from bullying, intimidation or harassment?
A comic by the artist Marie-Shirine Yener answers some of those questions. Although the vignettes refer to an Islamophobic attack, the protocol is the same regardless of who's being victimized.
The four recommended steps:
1) Engage conversation. Go to the person being attacked, sit beside them and say hello. Try to appear calm, collected and welcoming. Ignore the attacker (this is very important).
2) Pick a random subject and start discussing it with the victim. It can be anything: a movie you liked, the weather, something they're wearing.
3) Keep building a safe space for them. Keep eye contact and don't acknowledge the attacker's presence: the absence of response from both you and the victim will likely push the agressor to leave the area.
4) Continue the conversation until the attacker leaves, and escort the victim to a safe place if necessary. Bring them to a neutral area where they can recollect themselves; respect their wishes if they tell you they're ok and just want to leave.
Don't confront the agressor
Of course, a decision to intervene may mean that the spectator could also suffer the aggressor's wrath. Experts advise against engaging in any kind of physical or verbal confrontation unless you are specifically trained to do so. If the incident becomes violent, ask for help from authorities.
An alternative option, however, is to try to distract the person who is intimidating the victim. How? Dorothy Edwards, director of an association that trains citizens to intervene in situations of harassment, told City Lab, distraction means making noise, swearing, talking loudly on your phone—anything that’s designed to create commotion and attention. She also recommends filming the incident, but not posting it on social networks without communicating first with the victim.
Some organizations recommend encouraging other people to intervene with you to stop the aggression. "There is strength in numbers—three or more people saying 'Stop!' or standing up in other appropriate, nonviolent ways is more powerful than one, and might cause a chain reaction of support," according to the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitic crimes and incidents.