POLICE Commissioner Kim McGuinness is calling on those who work with men and boys across the region to take up new training to help challenge the behaviours that support harassment and violence against women and girls.

‘Active bystander training’ is a new programme launched this week by the Commissioner’s office as part of determined efforts to prevent the unwelcome behaviours that can increase the likelihood of abuse occurring.

Bystander intervention is viewed by experts as a way that can be effective in preventing assault from happening. This new training is a powerful tool taking you through the steps from noticing a problem, having the confidence to act and determining the best course of action to take.

The innovative training has been designed to empower bystanders and is being delivered by national behaviour change specialists, Kindling Transformative Interventions and Beyond Equality. The training seeks to equip people with the skills and confidence needed to speak up when they notice behaviours that aren’t right such as harassment, sexual harassment, or problematic and threatening behaviour.

National figures show 71 per cent of women have experienced harassment in public spaces. A recent survey by the Commissioner’s office revealed the majority of women would like to see more initiatives to drive the change in attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls. The PCC is making this happen and wants to ensure men and boys are included in part of the solution to tackle the misogyny and sexism that are often at the root of the problem.

Organisations that have signed up to become Active Bystander Trainers so far intend to empower more than 3000 men and boys and people in our communities to become active bystanders before the end of 2023.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “If no one confronts these sexist behaviour and attitudes people continue accepting them as normal – this has to change. By doing nothing we empower the harasser so it’s on us all – we all have to do something.

“It really isn’t always just banter“ she continued, “it’s about how it makes us feel, and what these attitudes and behaviours can lead to.”

“I want people to know there is always something you can do as a bystander and the more active bystanders we have in the North East, the bigger change we can make and the more we can positively impact wider culture on this.

“I really want to urge people, businesses, organisations to get signed up and be that difference. Be the guy telling your mate to pack it in or check a woman is OK. The majority of people know what’s right and what’s wrong and when they see things they want to call it out and intervene but many people are just not sure how to go about it.

“I hope this training will bring real, lasting change to workplaces, organisations and communities across the North East. I see it as an important step forward empowering others in the fight against violence against women and girls and improving lives.”

Lee Crosby, Head of Youth and Community Education at the Foundation of Light in Sunderland, one of the local organisations already signed up said: “The Foundation of Light are proud to part of this new initiative launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner and will use the Active Bystander training to challenge negative behaviours, including harassment and violence against women and girls in the various projects we deliver.

“We want to support the Police and Crime Commissioner’s work embedding positive messages and behaviours throughout the work we do, whilst ensuring prejudice behaviours and attitudes are challenged so women and girls feel safe in the communities in which we live and work.”

Nate Eisenstadt, Co-founder of Kindling and Senior Research Associate at University of Bristol said:

“We’re at a place now in society where most people know when they see something harmful unfolding – what many of us lack is the confidence and skillset to intervene in ways that are effective. This training is about doing just that – it offers people a practical set of tools to step up respond to harm and prevent escalation.

The training is free to attend and is funded as part of the OPCC’s Safer Streets project and the Northumbria Violence Reduction Unit.

More info and to sign up click here