DURHAM — Leaders at a nonprofit organization in town want to help companies stop sexual harassment in the workplace.
Soteria Solutions on Madbury Road is rolling out the Bringing in the Bystander Prevention Program for businesses to teach participants how to identify problem situations and intervene in an effective manner.
President and co-founder Jane Stapleton says anyone in a company can respond if they see sexual harassment taking place.
“There are a lot of different ways to intervene, and how you intervene depends on what your role in the company is,” Stapleton said. “This program really seeks to build people’s understanding of what sexual harassment looks like. It builds their understanding of what they can do.”
Stapleton said it may be as simple as a coworker distracting the perpetrator and getting the person being harassed out of the situation. It may be more difficult and require a report to human resources to stop the behavior.
Stapleton is one of the researchers behind a recent report at the University of New Hampshire that estimated that 52 percent of women and 22 percent of men in the state have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The researchers surveyed a total of 989 people during the Granite State Poll in April and July of last year and found that 21 percent of women and 17 percent of men reported that they quit their jobs after being sexually harassed.
Stapleton said there is often high recognition in a workplace for quid pro quo sexual harassment, where an employee is forced to perform sexual favors for a promotion or to keep their job. But remarks about appearance or sexual activities, indecent materials on display and inappropriate touching can be toxic to a work environment and is too often normalized.
Stapleton said sexual harassment is damaging for both female and male employees, even though it happens less to men.
“We don’t want to diminish that. Just because it happens less than it does to women doesn’t mean they’re not as bothered by it,” Stapleton said of men who suffer from sexual harassment.
The program Stapleton and co-founder Sharyn Potter have put together for businesses is based on their Bringing in the Bystander Prevention Program geared toward colleges and high schools. BITB College is in use in more than 450 institutions of higher education and a high school program was launched in 2018.
Stapleton and Potter launched the Prevention Innovations Research Center at UNH more than 10 years ago. The Bringing in the Bystander Prevention Program was developed through UNH and is being distributed by Soteria Solutions, Stapleton said.
For more information, visit www.soteriasolutions.org.