Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

What to do, if something happened?

People, who are affected by discrimination or sexual harassment and violence themselves, witnesses of something that happened to another person or people who are asked by a person for support, can easily feel perplex or overwhelmed. For that reason we collected some useful advice on this website that might be helpful in certain situations.

Information for people affected

In the situation

  • Tell the person clearly that his*her behavior is unwelcome and inappropriate and what reactions you wish for. – E.g. with a request to refrain such behavior and a demand for an apology. If the behavior of the discriminating or sexually harassing person remains unopposed, there may be a higher risk that the person will continue his*her behavior in the future or will even enhance it. If there is no way to reject this inappropriate behavior in that situation, it is possible to catch up on that later e.g. in written form (as long as the contact details of the person concerned are known).
  • Draw the attention of uninvolved people to the situation.
  • Talk to possible witnesses and ask them for their contact details, so you can reach them, in case you will need their testimonies.
  • Optionally, security guards or the police can be alerted.

Right after the situation

  • Move to a secure location and, if possible, don’t stay alone. Contact a person you trust and let him*her know about the incident.
  • Take yourself and your emotions seriously. It is not your fault, if someone else is discriminating or harassing you or using violence against you.
  • Try to reconstruct a memory record, in order to document the incident, as accurately as possible. Note all the facts you can think of: date, time, the exact place, the people involved (if they are unknown, people can be described), what has been said, what happened.
  • Keep evidences, if there are (e.g. emails, texts).
  • After a physical assault pictures of injuries, personal damage or dirt should be taken. You can consult a doctor and ask for a medical certificate that lists all violations. In the clinic for forensic medicine of the University Hospital Halle, injuries of victims of violence can be documented by specialized physicians in a "court-proof" manner - independent of a report to the police and free of charge. In addition, the injuries can be assessed, forensic evidence can be collected, and samples can be taken for chemical-toxicological tests. The doctors are bound to professional secrecy. No information is passed on against the will of the person examined. The collected findings are stored until retrieved.

In the time after

The effects of discrimination or sexual harassment and violation for people affected are individual and dependent on what happened. Nevertheless, it is always a burdensome experience that can take a lot of energy and can influence your ability to study or work.

Possible effects are e.g.:

  • To feel bad, to be confused or insecure, if the incident was really sexual harassment or discrimination.
  • To worry about negative consequences, disbelief, lack of understanding, when talking about what had happened.
  • Particularly severe experiences can cause blackouts or memory loss, which allow your psyche to protect itself from stressful events.
  • To blame yourself for what happened
  • Frustration about not having resisted enough (people often underestimate how difficult it can be to fight back in an emergency situation)
  • To relativize the experienced transgressive behavior by saying to yourself that you are too sensitive.

For those reasons it can be difficult to turn to others. People affected tend to hold back experienced discrimination or sexual harassment and try to avoid further situations of that kind discreetly. Out of fear to encounter the discriminating or harassing person again, lectures or examinations can be avoided or the change of a mentor or university considered.

This effects the further study progress and often delays the graduation. Treating the happened as a taboo in turn has the effect for the perpetrators that their misbehavior remains invisible and that they don’t have to face consequences for their behavior. It can lead to them not even being aware that their behavior was inappropriate. For people affected, however, the experienced can have burdening consequences that not only occur temporary.

For example:

  • Insomnia, nightmares
  • Continuously thinking about what happened
  • To feel sick, headaches and stomach pain, nausea
  • Frequent anxiety und a sense of insecurity and threat
  • Reduced self-confidence
  • Feeling of sadness, disgust or anger
  • Increased distrust, nervousness and irritability
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Tiredness and listlessness
  • Lower levels of performance and poor outcomes in studies/ at work
  • Withdrawal from social activities and isolation
  • Distraction of higher activity as well as increased consumption of alcohol and drugs

Depending on the severity of the experienced, it can lead to prolonged exposure, traumatization, mental illnesses and physical diseases, as well as discontinuation of the studies or loss of employment, especially, if the experienced couldn’t be processed through appropriate support. Therefore it is important not to stay alone with what happened, but to seek support.

The following things can be useful to process what had happened:

  • To do things that are good for you
  • To get some rest, to be easy on yourself: you experienced something distressing and it is okay, if you are not a machine.
  • To seek support or assistance for your everyday life (e.g. of friends)
  • To consult a competent clinic/ counselling service
  • To visit a self-assertion or self-defense course (e.g. at university sports center)
  • To connect to people, who experienced similar things and to talk to each other (for example in a support group); Feelings can be shared and future reactions practiced
  • To actively stand against discrimination and sexual harassment e.g. by joining an existing group or to establish a new group
  • To consult a therapist in order to process the incident(s)
  • To file a report at university against the person that discriminated or harassed you
  • To file a personal or written complaint at the public prosecutor’s office or at the police and to press charges, if necessary.
    This may result in a deterrence or, best case, a penalty of the perpetrators and may be included in police statistics. At the same time it should be noted that the person reported will get to know, who has reported him*her. You are not obliged to file a complaint, but regarding several crimes the police must carry out investigations, even if there was no report filed – e.g. when causing actual bodily harm. You are not obliged to give your statements to the police, unless they are akin to summonses to the public prosecutor’s office.

Übersicht zu Anlaufstellen

Übersicht Anlaufstellen für Studierende

Übersicht Anlaufstellen für Studierende

Übersicht der Anlaufstellen für Studierende
Roadmap Studierende.pdf (154 KB)  vom 29.09.2021

Übersicht Anlaufstellen für Mitarbeiter*innen

Übersicht Anlaufstellen für Mitarbeiter*innen

Übersicht der Anlaufstellen für Mitarbeiter*innen
Roadmap Beschäftigte.pdf (168.6 KB)  vom 29.09.2021

Information for witnesses

  • Don’t look away, if you have the feeling someone is discriminated or sexually harassed. Stay and send out a clear signal that you are aware of what happens.
  • Ask the person concerned, if everything is okay and offer help. Give your contact details, in order for the person to be able to reach out to you, if she*he wants. This way you can help the person concerned to understand the situation in the context of a violation of the individual rights.
  • If necessary, talk to the person that is behaving in a discriminatory or harassing manner and signalize, that his*her behavior is inappropriate.
  • Provide a testimony in case of complaints or accuses.
  • Act only with the approval of the person affected and do not think that you know better what are the needs of the person concerned. The needs of the person affected should be the center of attention and you should not take any action that she*he didn’t agree on.
  • You can also consult advice centers within or outside the university, but do not give out any personal information of the person concerned, if she*he did not mention that explicitly.

If a person affected seeks your support

Private support (e.g. amongst friends)

  • Listen carefully and try not to judge the heard
  • If a person affected by sexual harassment tells you about what had happened, it shows that the person trusts you. It is important to value that trust and to handle it confidentially. Take the person seriously in everything she*he tells you.
  • Ask the person, how you can support her*him and don’t act in any way that he*she doesn’t want. You can offer help and make suggestions, but you should also accept a refusal. The person experienced something that violated her*his self-determination that is why it is of particular importance that the next steps are characterized by an independent approach.
  • Possible forms of support can be listening, comforting, accompaniment to advice centers and support with issues concerning everyday life or search for information. Above all, support means to assist the person in her*his insecure process and pay attention to him*her favorably. In this context, it is important to accept the fact that you cannot directly have the right solutions to hand.
  • Take care of yourself and your boundaries. You don’t have to do anything, where you don’t feel comfortable yourself.
  • As a supporter, you can also consult advice centers within or outside the university, but do not give out any personal information of the person concerned, if she*he did not mention that explicitly.

Support in professional contexts (e.g. as an instructor)

  • Take the person seriously in everything, she*he tells you and take time for her*his concerns.
  • Make transparent, in what way the conversation can be confidential and what are your statutory duties.
  • Clarify, what form of support the person wants from you. That should be the focus. Don’t do anything against the will of the person.
  • Consider, if you are the right point of contact for the concern and make transparent, if you are not. It can require a lot of effort for the person seeking advice to tell what has happened. That’s why it should be avoided that she*he is sent to various departments unnecessarily in order to tell what has happened.
  • Inquire about the office responsible and offer to accompany the person seeking advice or to make an appointment for her*him, if necessary. You can find an overview of the different counseling services and support bodies of MLU and in the region here.
  • Only release information you are sure about and be transparent about knowledge gaps. You can also offer to obtain the current missing information by an upcoming appointment.
  • Offer further appointments according to possibility.
  • Recommendation: The anti-discrimination office of the federation published a guideline worth reading that includes a lot of useful information: “Consultation in case of discrimination: first steps and relaying.