She took a swing and he grabbed her hand (he was easily 6' and she must have been 5'2 and about 100lbs) and he threw her up against the building and grabbed her throat. I was alone at the stop and reacted instinctively: I pushed my way between them and told the boy to back off. Predictably he started screaming at me to "stay out of his business" but I ignored him and worked on leading the girl away. She kept sobbing in apology, and flinched when the boy tried to grab her hand. The boy kept yelling at me to "stay out of it" and I told him that he if was going to assault his girlfriend on a public street than it damn well was my business, and that if he didn't back off and move away I was going to call the police.
He pushed into my space and drew back like he was going to swing at me. "I was trying to defend myself!" he yelled, and I rolled my eyes and said, "Sure. You're twice her size, you asshole. And now you look like you're going to hit me. Get control of yourself."
He muttered, "Fucking feminist bitch!" and moved away up the street. The Youth Centre was locked so I waited with the girl (who kept apologizing the whole time) and hoped that the guy would just drop it. He didn't, of course - he came back a few minutes later and told me, "I don't hit girls." I ignored him and kept talking to the girl, telling her that no one has the right to manhandle her like that. By this time there were more people at the stop and they were starting to notice that something was wrong. The guy grabbed for the girl again and twisted her around to say, "I don't want people like her" (meaning me) "to think that I'm some kind of jerk. I don't want to hurt you!" The girl kept crying and my bus arrived; I coaxed her onboard with me and we rode about ten stops together until she'd calmed down enough to get off and find her way home. I gave her bus fare and tried to listen to her explanation of the fight but she was pretty upset, and my heart was still racing from the adrenaline. I watched her get off and I really hope she gets out of whatever relationship she's in with the guy. I think she really did feel like it was her fault, like she'd provoked him or something. I kept telling her that, no, there was no excuse for his reaction. And that she didn't have to take that shit from anyone. Nothing is worth being in a relationship with someone who uses violence to intimdate you.
I've never gotten involved physically in a confrontation like that, but I kept thinking about that solidarity pledge that went around a little while ago in the wake of that asinine "boob grab" program that asshole suggested be instituted at a con. The idea behind the pledge was that, when you see a woman in a dangerous or threatening situation, you do not look the other way. You do not hope that she can handle herself. You do not wait for other people to intervene. You speak up, and you do what you can do diffuse the situation and help protect the other woman's basic rights. I'm glad I stepped in: it was pretty clear if the guy was ready to put this tiny woman in a choke-hold on a public street and throw her up against a wall, he would have done much, much worse until someone intervened. I'm not physically imposing (I'm only about 5'4" and a 160lbs - not exactly a powerhouse) but I was damn well ready to take a punch if it meant that he would learn that there are consequences to trying to dominate and intimidate women, and that people are ready and willing to step and intervene.
I was a little stunned by how quickly his anger towards me for calling him on what he was doing became anger about "feminism” - as if suggesting it's not right to assault people is some kind of extreme political ideology. Not that feminism is extreme, of course - just that he would make that connection so quickly in the midst of all his adrenaline and anger and shock at being told, "No. You do not get to do this." His instinctive reaction was anger towards women's collective fight for independence and recognition. It sort of boggles my mind.
Anyway. I'm a little shaky, but it felt good to step in. I can't imagine how awful I'd feel if I'd just turned away and gotten on the bus. There are issues of personal safety to consider, yes, but if I can't stand up to some 17-year-old guy who's just learning about his own position of power, when will I be able to speak up?
- Current Mood: thoughtful