Posted April 3rd, 2014 by Duken


Friends and colleagues may go through an experience which is similar in some aspects to the experience of the victim or the alleged harasser (depending on who they identify with).


Friends and colleagues can also experience powerlessness.  First, they might empathize with the victim (or alleged harasser) and thus feel their powerlessness in the situation for themselves. In addition, they often are acutely aware of their own powerlessness in helping their friend/colleague.


Support Friend/Colleague

They want to help the friend or colleague who is having troubles.

Process Own Reactions to Powerlessness

Friends and colleagues also need to deal with their own experience of powerlessness.



At first, many friends and colleagues have a hard time believing the allegations: “He seems like such a nice person.”  While denial is a typical first reaction for victims as well, they usually will find themselves forced to move on and accept and deal with the experience.


Friends and colleagues may comment: “Why do you need to make such a big deal of this? Just ignore the guy!” This again mirrors a typical reaction of victims. But while a victim of harassment has an experience that she will eventually be unable to ignore, only very openminded and sensitive friends/colleagues will be able to see that “making a big deal of it” is not a voluntary choice but is an authentic reaction to her experience.


Friends and colleagues often fear retaliation if they openly support a victim or alleged harasser. Sometimes they discourage a victim who wants a confrontation because they are afraid the harasser will become violent and will lash out against them as well.


Some friends and colleagues urge the victim to come forward, and point out that they have a moral obligation to do so, or else the harasser might hurt other victims as well.


Some friends and colleagues find that the harassment was the victims own fault.  Perhaps if the victim had dressed in a more conservative way, the harassment would never have happened.


Many do not want to be involved with people that go through a crisis.  They find them exhausting to be with or are simply bored in their presence.


Some friends or colleagues seem to know exactly what needs to be done to improve the situation. This allows them to feel in charge of the situation, and not to accept their own powerlessness.  While victims are often grateful for someone who tells them what to do,  it can further increase their sense of powerlessness, since the friend essentially signals that they are unable to control the situation themselves.


Some friends and colleagues are able to listen to the experience of victims without telling them what they should do/should have done.  These friends and colleagues are an important resource for the victim to clarify her own experience and find out what she wants to do about it.

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