Fairspace has been providing bystander intervention training to end street harassment since 2017. We are proud of our track record and that the training is becoming increasingly in-demand. With its growing popularity, our responsibility also grows to ensure that the training responds to the needs and specific contexts of the different target groups we work with. At the same time, it’s important that we continue to tap into the latest developments and research on street harassment and sexually transgressive behaviour.
In light of this, Fairspace, with the support of the VSB Fund, commissioned a process evaluation by Atria, the Knowledge Institute for Emancipation and Women’s History. In this blog, we summarise the process we went through, what the outcomes of the process evaluation are and how we can apply them in our work.
One of our bystander intervention training series, Stand Up, aims to teach community members how to intervene when they are bystanders to street harassment and (sexually) transgressive behaviour in public spaces. The training is suitable for everyone, because anyone can happen to witness an incident in public space. In practice, Fairspace gives the training mainly to school children, students, catering staff and LGBTQIA+ collectives and organisations.
Atria researchers Britt Myren and Javier Koole interviewed participants, trainers and implementers of Stand Up from October 2022 to March 2023, made observations at training sessions and shared questionnaires with participants, both immediately after the training as well as two months later. The evaluation consists of several dimensions: a process evaluation aimed at improving the intervention, a discussion of the outcomes of the training compared to its initial goals, and a review of the training in relation to existing literature on bystander intervention.
The evaluation shows that participants, trainers and implementers are generally positive about bystander intervention. Common feedback is that the training is useful and provides tools to intervene as a bystander, as well as to start conversations about street harassment and transgressive behaviour.
Results show that the training best suits students, municipalities and LGBTQIA+ organisations. Although we also provided the training to other target groups, such as students with mild intellectual impairments, out-of-school young women, girls with bicultural backgrounds and people from immigrant communities, the Stand Up training outcomes were not as successful with these groups. This was often because these target groups often experience specific forms of transgressive behaviour that call for more contextualisation of the material. In response to this finding, the training was adapted to the target group in consultation with an expert.
One point of feedback is that men who participated sometimes felt negatively addressed because the material focuses on men who are perpetrators of transgressive behaviour. When talking about the gender distribution of perpetrator and victim, we highlighted to participants that research consistently shows that between 90-97% of perpetrators of street harassment and sexually transgressive behaviour are male. However, it is important to nuance here, especially with the role of bystanders, that this does not mean that 90-97% of men are perpetrators or that men are never victims of harassment.
In addition, as an organisation, Fairspace aims to spread the message that transgressive behaviour also occurs in non-sexual manifestations, such as racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, Islamophobia or other forms of discrimination. That being said, Fairspace has included examples of these other forms of harassment in our training videos as early as 2022 and in our Action Rounds, in which participants practice responding to diverse scenarios of harassment, since our inception.
Finally, the results of the evaluation showed that trainers, implementers and participants gained insights and skills and expressed an intention to positively change behaviour as a result. After taking the training, 99% of participants reported understanding what sexual transgressive behaviour/street harassment means, what it looks like and its impact.
After attending a workshop, 80% of participants indicated that they would intervene if they witnessed transgressive behaviour. In addition, after two months or more of participating in the workshop, 79% of participants indicated that they still felt that they knew what to do if they are bystanders to transgressive behaviour/street harassment. The study results indicate that bystander intervention training not only affects attitude change, but also participants’ behaviour.
Thus, based on the intervention logic and interview findings, there is evidence that a broad roll-out of the training would lead to participants intervening earlier when they are bystanders of transgressive behaviour.
Of participants who found themselves in a situation after the training where they were bystanders to street harassment/transgressive behaviour, 89% said they used what they learned during the training.
- Yes, not just verbally addressing someone, but also physically creating distance between the person and the “victim”
- Yes, actively seeking eye contact I had not normally done and I felt empowered to speak out against the behaviour
- Yes, I was able to delegate and document what happened as best I could.
- Doubted whether going there afterwards was right, but through the training I knew it is always good to do so.
- I was direct to the offender and tried to accommodate the victim as best I could.
Starting in March 2023, we have had the opportunity to expand our Stand Up programme on a larger scale throughout the Netherlands. We are further motivated by the evidence gathered throughout this process to continue offering these impactful trainings. We remain committed to creating a safer and more inclusive society, and to training active bystanders.