Contention of Intervention (28/M)

Many of the posts on this blog are tagged with “the bystander effect”. I’d like to share my story as it pertains to this:

A number of years ago I was on a late night bus in the lower mainland.  4 teenaged boys entered the bus and were clearly inebriated.  Taking claim of nearly the entire rear end of the bus, the young men began harassing a woman sitting alone a few rows ahead, making remarks about her looks to one another and trying to get her attention through various verbal jabs and profanities.  She was doing her best to ignore them but it was quite clear that she was very uncomfortable, and visually frightened.  Having witnessed this for the better part of 5 to 10 minutes I felt enough was enough and spoke up.  “how bout’ you guys just leave her alone?”. Rather than diffusing the situation, this merely stoked the fire and the young men quickly turned their attention to me.  Shortly after the woman exited the bus without a word, the verbal attack continued to escalate into threats of physical violence and escalated further the more that I tried to ignored them.  Others on the bus just shook their heads and did the same.  When the bus reached my stop I existed through the front doors and began walking.  Soon afterwards I realized that the 4 drunk teens had also got off at my stop and were following me.  As I was nearing my destination, fearing some sort of confrontation at my place, I made a quick turn and stopped in the shadows.  The group made the same turn and confronted me.  I attempted to dissuade them from any physical altercation which led them to insist on me giving up my personal belongings in exchange for a peaceful ending to the altercation.  Being a young man myself, my pride got the better of me and I refused to give them my wallet and silver chain I had just spent months saving up to buy.  They surrounded me and began shoving me around.  I threw the first punch in defense but woke up on the side of the road some time later, just a few blocks from the safety of my home.

Looking back on the situation I can admit that I handled it wrong.  Direct intervention was not the best way of dealing this. In retrospect, the best thing to do would have been to quietly pull out my state-of-the-art Motorola flip phone, and contacted the proper authorities.  This is known as detour intervention, according to the wiki page for “the bystander effect”.  It is a much safer course of action and one that, because of its discreetness, may or may not have occurred in many of the posts stated here in which bystanders appeared to have done nothing unbeknownst to the victim.  The fact is, directly intervening is dangerous, and therefore it isn’t fair to blame those who don’t directly intervene in such frightening circumstances.  I encourage readers to educate themselves on what the bystander effect is before throwing it around loosely.
One final point that I hope does not overshadow what I’ve already stressed.  This blog was created as a project for women’s studies.  And it is very safe to say that most harassment on translink is directed towards females as a result of an inequality that is perpetuated by society.  My question is this: How many situations in which a man was being harassed by another/a group of other men do those victims complain of a lack of intervention by a female bystander?  Not many.  Why is it a male bystander’s duty to intervene when a female is being harassed if it isn’t expected both ways?  Being a damsel in distress is something that feminism is trying to deter.  Being a person in distress is what feminism preaches.  If we are all considered equal, why do women and children receive the first lifeboats?  Equality goes both ways.  I hope that women refrain from mentioning their surprise when not saved by male strangers on this blog.  It is a step backwards.
I’d like to thank the creators of this blog for opening up such an important discussion.  Below I’ve included a few link that I think relates to this issue.
Thanks for your time.
– E
Man dies on bus trying to intervene
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8 thoughts on “Contention of Intervention (28/M)

  1. Very good points there. Why does everyone think that men should risk their safety to help, when other women don’t? Are men really expected to risk their lives to play Sir Galahad, when they’re at a much higher risk of a violent retaliation than another woman would be?

    (Similarly, why does everyone glare at a MAN who doesn’t offer his seat to a woman carrying a baby, when there are a dozen women who are closer to her, but who just sit there?)

  2. Hey E!
    I have read most if not all of these experiences and I don’t remember any of the contributors asking specifically for a man to intervene. “Why didn’t SOMEONE step in to help me?” is a recurring theme and I believe it is a gender-neutral question.I could be wrong, though – I will have to peruse again to make sure.

    Your experience is very unfortunate and I’m sorry that happened to you. Perhaps situations of harassment can be diffused if transitgoers collectively stood up for individuals being harassed – be they male or female.

    I will say that as a petite woman it is difficult for me to stand up for myself/other people when the perpetrator is a man or a group of men. I am aware of my physical limits and should this situation escalate I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. There have been several instances wherein I’ve tried to interject in an obvious harassment situation -between men and women alike- and I’ve been threatened with rape and all manner of physical violence in return. I wouldn’t expect only men to back me up in those situations, I would have hope that the PEOPLE I’m sharing my space with might give me a helping hand.

    And I’m pretty sure other victims of harassment feel the same way. We don’t expect those specifically of the opposite gender to help us, just, you know – other humans. That would be nice. Also transit authorities are hardly helpful in these situations, so… there’s that. It is a very complicated situation.

    • Nom.
      Thanks for the reply!

      You are correct in saying that not many have specifically stated they were surprised by the lack of male intervention, but rather any intervention. What I have noticed though is that when mentioning that nobody intervened, many posters have found it necessary to mention their gender again in close vicinity to their statement of “nobody helped me”. Examples though not directly quoted are:
      Being a young woman, I can’t believe nobody did anything.
      Thanks for helping a young women in this situation.
      Why didn’t anyone stand up for this girl?

      Other examples point to the fact that they seek male assistance or they were happy to have had a male friend meeting them. Though indirectly, I’m sure that cultural gender role ideals are being inadvertently emphasized in at least some of these examples; males are associated with physical security, and that, within the context of feminism, is a gender based stereotype.
      Why can’t it be:
      Why didn’t anyone stand up for this person?
      It adds so much to the weigh when mentioning that you were a female again within the context of bedding help. It shouldn’t matter what’s between your legs; people should look out for people. That’s an important point you’ve made.

      What I wanted to emphasize in my main point and initial post is the importance of safe intervention in the environment of the instances posted here. Direct, physical intervention is putting yourself in harms way. I may not like what they are doing to you but I’m nearly as frightened of them as you you are. So rather than speaking up, I quietly contact the police/or security on my mobile device rather than putting myself at risk and escalating an already volatile situation.
      This is what I’m trying to encourage the public to do in order to curb this disgusting trend, while making sure that others don’t find themselves in a similar situation that I was in.
      Thanks,
      – E

  3. Women and children first was NOT a rule according to a study coming out of Sweden.

    *http://www.ifn.se/eng/publications/wp/2012/913

  4. While I understand where you’re coming from, it’s fact that men on average are more physically developed than the average woman. As another commenter pointed out, it’s usually “why didn’t ANYONE help me” and not “why didn’t any MEN help me”. Just imagine if it was a woman in your shoes, who confronted a bunch of people and was followed off the bus in an isolated area. What do you think would’ve happened to her?

    And since you asked, I, a woman, have in fact spoken up for a guy being harassed by another guy. Granted, the douchebag was being racist and it pushed the right buttons for me to speak up and give him a verbal beat down. Thankfully, that got other people to speak up and finally had transit police escort him off the bus.

    The fact of the matter is, when faced with threats of violence, men are usually better equipped with fending themselves by being generally bigger and physically stronger. Of course, anyone who considers confronting aggressors should always assess possible risks. Generally though, I find that when one speaks up, others usually follow.

    Lastly, a point about why men stepping in would help, is that men who assault and harass women as illustrated by these stories, are usually cowards who have no respect for women as people. Once someone, anyone stands up, they’ll probably slink off. However, it’s usually doubly effective when a “fellow man” speaks up. It’s like when men ask us if we have a boyfriend, and won’t back off even when we say “no, but not interested. Please leave me alone”. If we said yes, however, it’s “oh, sorry” and backs off quickly, as if just saying no isn’t enough, it takes another man’s “claim” on us for them to back off.

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