“How Would you Want to be Supported by a Male Stranger If You Get Harassed?”

UserMaatRe asked this question on r/askwomen and added, “I have once or twice been in a situation where I have been a guy witnessing some harassment in a situation where a woman couldn’t simply walk away, and have intervened — not in the most de-escalating or safest manner possible, though.

“I recently read some advice about pretending to be a clueless friend of the woman being harassed, but I am worried that a woman already harassed by a man would not exactly feel more secure in the presence of one additional male stranger who suddenly pretends to be friends with her :/”

Here are some replies:

1) katienatie wrote this:

“I’ll always be grateful for a stranger who helped me in this situation. I was young, like 18 I think, taking the subway. He was probably mentally ill, but my default is still ‘be polite, be quiet, hope he goes away.’ He was saying sexual things to me in English and swearing at me in French (Montreal) as I stood on the platform trying to ignore him. Train arrives, and even through he’d been several meters away he moves to get on the same car as me. I sit in a half-empty car, and he proceeds to sit next to me and continues harassing me. I try to change seats a few times; he follows each time. Finally a friendly guy offers me the seat by the window, and sits next to me to block my harasser, who tries to talk over him nonetheless. Friendly guy then starts talking to harasser, and gently takes him by the elbow to another set of seats. At the next stop I get up to hurry off and when harasser tries to follow, friendly guy gently says, ‘She doesn’t want to talk to you,’ and blocks his way, trying to distract him with conversation.

“It’s been over ten years and I’ll always appreciate friendly guy’s smooth reaction.”

2) Anopanda, a male, wrote this:

“Well, last summer I was on a date with one girl. We were on a bench talking and drinking beers when another one sat close by. She started to enter the conversation, which was odd. But hey, I never back down from a conversation. She told us there was a weird guy following her, so we reseated to make it a three-person group. I didn’t know what to do, so I gave her the last remaining beer.

“She usually waits there for her bf [boyfriend], but he was running late and she was still freaked out from before. She was very happy with the beer. Later the creepy dude found her/us sitting there.

“We reseated. I sat next to her. My date sat across from us. And we ignored him. I did pay attention to the guy and noticed he was mostly mentally not all there. So I couldn’t get in a conversation with him and distract him. Soon the bf walked up, surprised by the two strangers with his gf [girlfriend]. Luckily they are made for each other, and with a few words we all went on our ‘well-planned’ double date.

“The date and I didn’t work out. But we all remained friends.

“So I say beer and conversation is a solution sometimes.”

3) peppermind wrote, “The best advice I’ve ever heard on this situation is just to distract the guy, by asking him if the bus just passed, or whether the shop down the road is open, whatever. It’s less risky for the guy stepping in, but gives the woman a chance to get out of there.”

4) Dayemos wrote this:

“My wife was approached by three men in a car who were making her feel very uncomfortable. She was walking our dog with our six-month-old baby. And they wanted to know the dog’s breed and then said they wanted the dog. She said at first she thought they were joking, but then it became apparent they wanted to actually take our dog. (She’s a gorgeous pit bull.)

“A man walked by and asked her if everything was all right. She said she was just leaving and he walked with her a while.

“Simply adding yourself to the equation, regardless of what you say, gives the woman the opportunity to leave and changes the dynamic enough that the man may back off.”

Note: The men did not get the dog.

5) copernicusz wrote this:

“Remember that the girl being harassed will probably also be suspicious of you, so don’t do anything like encourage her to come with you to get away from the harasser, or try to hug her to comfort her, etc. Even if you’re a good guy, she doesn’t know that, and unfortunately there are dudes out there who think by ‘saving’ a ‘damsel in distress’ they’re then free to make a move on her themselves. So bear in mind that in a situation like this, she’s gonna be suspicious and a little panicked, so don’t rely on her trusting you. If you’re with a female friend / girlfriend, things are a little different, as she’ll probably feel more comfortable around another woman.

“Also, don’t make her feel embarrassed or patronized. For example, by saying to the harasser, ‘Look how terrified you’re making her!’ Don’t speak for her, or draw attention to her vulnerability. When being harassed by a stranger in public, the last thing you want is even more eyes on you. Plus it’s just embarrassing, and just drives home the point that she’s unable to defend herself.

“De-escalate the situation. Don’t start a physical fight or something like that 1. because violence is bad, 2. because she’s gonna feel way responsible if someone gets hurt defending her, and 3. she’s just gonna want things over as soon as possible.

“So basically, the best thing to do is to draw attention away from her, without escalating the situation.”

Source: UserMaatRe, “How would you want to be supported by a male stranger if you get harassed?” Reddit. 18 December 2016 <http://tinyurl.com/jk655xg>.

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