How to de-escalate from a conflict

Priya Varadarajan, founder, Durga, tells you what you can do in situations where you sense imminent danger to yourself

By: Priya Varadarajan

We all encounter inappropriate behavior that if not addressed could get escalated to physical attack. These moments leave us angry, shamed and frustrated.

The reason we don’t retaliate is fear. We are unsure of how to tell someone off without hurting their egos, escalating to physical fight, being fully aware of our weaknesses.

Keeping this in mind, Durga has listed below a few tested methods to address harassment curated at workshops and conversations.
At Durga we believe that every situation has a solution and can be handled without escalation to physical abuse. We also firmly assert that the first step towards changing behavior is response.

Home is the safest place, not always. Here are suggestions to mothers to equip children who are potentially vulnerable:

  • A blanket rule is – no one is allowed to touch children in any of their ‘unsafe’ zones. No fathers, grandparents or helps. When someone touches them inappropriately, the child must shout, run and talk about it to you
  • When a child is alone with a relative or friend and feels vulnerable, they must lock themselves in a room where they can call or alert others
  • Sometimes, the child might not be able to distinguish play and sexual abuse, in such cases, it is very important for you to have open conversations around sexual abuse, inappropriate touch and setting boundaries of behavior with the child.
  • Teach the child to be able to run out of the house and go to a neighbor whom you trust.
  • Trust and build trust
The workplace is the second area where we spend long hours. There’s a lot of vulnerability here, particularly with power but you can be safe
  • Know your IC for POSH. Escalate to them always for legal recourse
  • When someone leans close or stand close, create a distance between you and them. Physically stepping back, gives you space to think clearly and also communicates a demarcation
  • Speak slightly louder to get the attention of the others if required so they know you are being harassed
  • Build a group of like-minded women and keep them informed of certain behaviours you have found uncomfortable so they are alert for you and themselves
  • Ensure that whenever you have to stay over late or work in isolation, you have informed some of the others in your group about it to build evidence
Social events
Some social events can be tricky when while we need to appear polite and calm, may have to deal with menacing situations. For these moments we suggest:
  • Make sure you build distance from the perpetrator immediately
  • When a handshake becomes uncomfortable, make excuses to move away.
  • When someone is looking at you inappropriately, you can casually ask if there is something on your outfit and pretend to dust it off. This will also draw attention that you are aware.
  • When a drunk colleague is making passes, it helps to let the others around you know
  • Always stay alert to subtle gestures, words or actions that may be inappropriate and respond calmly

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