What Should Be Included in an Anti-Harassment Policy?

Man giving you the finger
Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay

Like it or not, secular organizations need anti-harassment policies. Harassment happens, and it is not limited to religious believers. It makes sense that a secular organization planning to host a convention would want such a policy. An effective policy protects them and their guests. It also may prevent harassment by raising awareness and informing attendees what not to do.

What should be included in an anti-harassment policy? I avoided looking at any of the specific policies adopted by secular organizations before writing this. I wanted to see if I could outline the critical areas I'd want addressed in such a policy. There has been some lively discussion about this in many forums already.

What are the main content areas to address in a brief, informative, and enforceable policy? Here is what I would include:

  1. A concise definition of harassment. This definition would recognize that harassment is broader than sexual harassment. It would use behavioral terms when possible.
  2. A clear statement that the behaviors described above will not be tolerated at this event.
  3. A description of what someone should do if they believe they have experienced harassment at this event. Who they should inform?
  4. A brief description of the consequences of harassment at the event. What may happen to persons found to have harassed attendees?
  5. A statement discouraging false reports.

Since #5 is likely to be the most controversial, I'll explain my thoughts. We all differ in our sensitivity to perceived harassment. Some people believe they were harassed when this does not appear to be the case. Moreover, some may decide that accusing someone they don't like of harassment is okay. Providing a clear definition (#1) should help. Still, I'd note that staff would investigate allegations before expelling someone.

These are the components I'd look for if I was drafting or evaluating an anti-harassment policy. What do you think? Did I miss any important ones?

This post was revised and expanded in 2022 to improve clarity.