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What does it mean to be an Active Bystander?

An Active Bystander aims to challenge poor behaviours, and bring about cultural alteration through the strengthening messages that define boundaries of unacceptable behaviour.

Many individuals and/or groups with problematic attitudes are likely to consider their behaviour is normal if no one challenges it, and this can often be reinforced by cultural messages at UCL and the wider community. Some might not care their behaviour causes harm to others, but some might not even realise-.

If we constantly reinforce messages about behaviour that is unacceptable, this puts considerable pressure on people to re-think their behaviour. So any level of inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour should not be ignored.

Working collectively we can bring about change and create a safe and supportive community for all- that is an Active Bystander.

What are we doing to tackle sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying bystander situations?

Since 2012 the Union has had a Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment policy, which means we do not tolerate sexual misconduct in any of our spaces, or at any of our events. Recently we have taken a further step to expand what we do not tolerate in our spaces (sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying), as we commit to changing the culture that upholds such behaviour. We do this through a number of ways:

  • We offer active bystander sessions to all incoming students in signatory departments, giving students the skills they need to challenge harassment when they witness it
  • We offer training to all front line staff, including student staff and student-facing careers staff
  • We deliver Active Bystander training to presidents and treasurers of union clubs and societies as part of compulsory clubs and societies training
  • We work closely with UCL departments giving guidance on how to create a zero tolerance environment
  • To ensure security staff who work at the union are informed of this policy and have the power to remove perpetrators from our spaces