Creeps Only Treat You Humanely When You’re Someone’s Sister, Apparently
The Debrief: After Kaitlyn Regehr was grabbed on a bus, she wants to thank the way a bystander stood up for her, but why should we have to be someone’s sister for creeps to care about us?
No matter the joy we get through work, or the fun of going to the cinema or for dinner and drinks with mates afterwards, one sad element of city life is the journey home. You can’t get a taxi every night – nor should you have to – so you get on public transport. And then you walk home. And regardless of whether or not you’re actually in any danger, this journey is stodgy with fear. Previous experiences, inevitable catcalls – and worse – teach you to be on your guard all the time.
Instead of just listening to that podcast/album you love, or thinking about some really important life stuff through, your mind brims with potential escape routes, summoning violent self-defence moves, anticipating whether you’ll have to actually stab someone with the keys between your knuckles tonight.
And while maybe none of those men are thinking about toppling you over and raping you, for the most part, they can just stroll along carefree, not having to consider alternative routes home or truly address scary their presence might be. With a mind free of these scary thoughts, they have time to just get on with life.
That’s why, when a man stood up for a woman who’d just been grabbed by some creep on the bus, we think to applaud him. He’s stepped out of the cocoon of safety he has by virtue of being a bloke and acts the hero. That’s what Kailyn Regehr, a Canadian living in London, did after a good Samaritan intervened when a creep grabbed her on the bus.
She was on the 207 to Acton, west London when ‘the tall, dark, and dapper one with the beard’ on the bus, got up to tell the creep who’d just grabbed her to get off.
She’s since published a public Facebook status describing the incident in search of the good Samaritan, and in part of the post, she explained what made her happiest: ‘Most of all, thank you for asking him about the women in his life, his mother, his sister... You said, "She could be your sister. She is someone's sister", and in doing so you made me a person. You made us a community.’
Well-meaning abounds, from her search to find him (we sincerely hope she does) and of course, his actions – to intervene while plenty of people would’ve just looked harder into their phones or out of the window. But why did the good Samaritan have to summon the idea of Kaitlyn being a sister?
Of course, when you feel threatened by a creep, it’s within your rights to summon any get-out that you like and feel safe with, from stamping on their foot to muttering that you have a boyfriend.
Whatever jolts the creep into feeling some sense of empathy for you is valuable in the moment, but it’s telling, isn’t it, that this guy couldn’t be trusted to feel empathy for Kaitlyn because she’s a human, an individual person. The empathy had to be thrown back to the idea of some invisible man somewhere.
Sure, calling her a sister worked and that creep did get let her go afterwards, but what if that creep has no family? What if they've previously treated their female relatives like crap BECAUSE they're women? When it comes to weirdos assaulting people in public, surely it's more to do with the fact that their victims are women rather than the fact they're strangers? On a wider level, I can't go telling anyone I've got a boyfriend back home, I look pretty gay! And what if I'm straight, I do have a boyfriend, he's with me when I'm being assaulted and the guy persists? The one simple thing that creep needs to know is - we're humans, treat us with the respect you'd like to be treated with.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. While potentially traumatising street harassment and assaults on trains are still so prevalent (reports of the latter are rising), and useful bystanders so far and few between, someone simply standing up and telling a creep to fuck off is commendable. Like, it’s a means to an end, it gets the job done, and makes the victim feel a bit less alone. But let’s set the bar a little higher and hope that, one day, everyone just treats each other like humans, valued for their own merit, not the men they may or may not be related to.
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