Most companies have sexual harassment policies in place and many provide anti-harassment training, but it’s clear that more could be done. Sexual harassment can cost companies billions in lost productivity, wasted talent, public penalties, private settlements and insurance costs, not to mention the financial, physical and psychological damage victims sustain. One strategy that has worked on college campuses and in the military is bystander training, which helps increase awareness by training people how to recognize, intervene and show empathy for victims of assault. The training also encourages bystanders to disrupt assaults before they happen, and helps survivors report and seek support after the fact. Although current sexual harassment training can check a compliance box for companies, to affect lasting culture change, bystander training can demonstrate that every employee is responsible for creating the culture in their everyday routines and interactions. Bystander training gives everyone a voice and the tools to speak up and no longer places the responsibility of avoiding or fending off offensive behavior of the victims. It also ensures that the culture evolves into one of mutual respect and defines what is acceptable behavior.
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