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I just want to share a story that happened a few years ago to show that as a bystander, you can accomplish a lot by doing just a little gesture.
It was at Gare du Midi (Zuidstation) late in the evening, at almost midnight. When I stepped on the platform, there was just another girl sitting there. A really weird guy arrived, he looked very drunk/high/I don’t even know. And the girl who was there, she saw him and she freaked out and ran away, which made me think he probably had annoyed her previously, because that was not a normal reaction.
So I was alone, there was just me and the weird guy, who was walking aimlessly, stopping to look at the ground and everything. Considering how the girl had just ran away, I really didn’t feel safe at all. Then another woman arrived and she sat next to me, which reassured me a lil bit because I wasn’t alone anymore.
And then the guy, he came to us, and he started talking to the woman. He was grabbing his pants, saying to the woman, in French “You want it, bitch? Huh? You want it? You want to suck it, slut?” And the woman, she didn’t speak French. She was saying “Please sir, I don’t understand, please stop it”.
And her voice was begging, she sounded scared and desperate, and I was sitting next to her, thinking “What am I supposed to do? He’s stronger than me, he’s crazy, so that makes him a double threat. But I can’t just stand there and do nothing! How many times did that kind of thing happened to me, without anyone helping me? I can’t sit there and let this woman go through what I’ve been through so many times!”
So I just thought that the best I could do was to talk to the woman instead of calling the harasser off, and take her away from the threat. I put my hand on her arm and I said “Come with me.” She gladly followed. The guy followed us a bit, insulting us. He kicked in her suitcase and he spat at me, then he walked away and left the platform. The woman was pretty shaken up but grateful that I had ‘helped’ her.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you witness some form of harassment:
1. You don’t need to be strong or badass to help. The littlest thing can be incredibly helpful for the victim.
2. If you are scared, think about all the times something like that happened to you without anyone helping you. It gives you enough adrenaline to help, because you remember how you felt and how you hated being so helpless.
Solidarity is one of the best weapons against these people. Of course, every situation is different, some might get violent, you never know how things will turn out. But never forget that just a little gesture can help a lot.
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