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.
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:
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.
Man dies on bus trying to intervene