Have you been on a bus and heard someone yelling racist abuse? Know anyone who's been called homophobic names at school?
Many people have told us they've seen this sort of behaviour and didn't know what to do about it – so we've put together these suggestions on how you can make a difference to someone facing discrimination.
Why you should do something
Sometimes it's really hard to be the one to speak up - but remember, if you're feeling uncomfortable about a situation, or feel like you should say something, other people around are probably thinking the same thing, too.
If you don't act you might later feel guilty that you didn't! But, more importantly, research shows that when people watching don't do anything, it increases the impact of the incident. That is, by everyone staying quiet while someone is yelling hateful things, it makes it seem like they all agree with what's going on. This can be far more hurtful than the abuse itself.
So by making an effort to let the target know you don't support the hate, you can make a huge difference to how someone feels about themselves and the community.
But what can I do?
There is no easy answer to this because it depends on the situation. We would never recommend that you put yourself in physical danger, for instance if the hater is drunk, on drugs or appears violent. Of course, if violence or a crime occurs, call the Police on 000 immediately.
Here are some ideas for you to think about:
In situations where the risk of violence is low – such as someone making a nasty comment or 'joke' about someone's background or sexuality at school, it can be a good opportunity to say something to encourage the person to think about what they are saying, as well as those listening to them).
Keeping it casual rather than getting angry can help – for example saying, "why do you think it's funny to call him that?" Or "she's alright, why don't you just leave her alone?" might be more effective than yelling back or calling someone racist or homophobic.
Often people who yell things assume they have the support of the crowd. So in public or where a group is listening to what's going on, you could say "who else thinks this is not OK?" You can try to get others to help make it clear that the abuser is the odd one out. If you are at school or work you can gather a few people who think the same way and together approach a person or group who has been behaving in a hateful way – this can take the pressure off you as an individual.
In a situation where you and the target may be at risk, the best course of action is to not confront the abuser directly or yell threats or abuse back at them, that can just inflame the situation.
Think about how you can demonstrate to the target that they are supported. Examples include asking them if they are OK, turning your back to the abuser and asking the target to come and sit with you, taking them away from the offender or other such non-confrontational action.
If you've seen something online, report it at Anti-Hate and we can see what we can do to get the page taken down. Check out our range of letters that you can send to people – they range from a funny note to a friend to let them know you don't think their views on their Facebook page are OK, right through to warning someone their blog may be in breach of the law.
All schools have an anti-bullying policy – ask a teacher or student support officer what you can do. You can think about setting up a support group, ask for an Anti-Hate kit for your workplace or school and put the Anti-Hate posters around, making it clear that hate is not tolerated.
If you see an incident take place in a shop, at work, in a nightclub or sports club for example, you can report it to us at the Commission. We can write to them and let them know that what they have done may be against the law. If someone makes a formal complaint to us, it can go to conciliation and this can result in things like a formal apology or monetary compensation, depending on the complaint.
Other things you can do:
- Make it clear to your friends that you won't be involved in discrimination or bullying.
- Never stand by and watch or encourage a hater.
- Do not harass, tease or spread gossip about others, this includes on social networks like Facebook.
- Never forward on or respond to discriminatory messages or photos that may be offensive or upsetting.
- Support the person who is being abused to ask for help, e.g. go with them to a place they can get help or provide them with information about where to go for help.
The Commission developed the Anti-Hate website to give people a way to do something about racist, sexist and homophobic behaviour.
We ask that if people see hateful behaviour that they remove it, report it, but most importantly, make it clear that as a community we will not tolerate it.