não me toque - don't touch me - words you may need on the Caminho Portugues | Camino de Santiago Forum
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não me toque - don't touch me - words you may need on the Caminho Portugues

Discussion in 'Personal Safety' started by ivar, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. ivar

    ivar Administrator Staff Member Donating Member

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    Dear all,

    I got this private message from a female forum member and was asked to post it on the forum. The title and the text below is hers:

    -----------

    I experienced two situations on the Caminho Portugues involving excessive unwanted touching by a man. Both occurred while I was hiking alone.
    The first occurred between Santarem and Fatima at a station set up by a man with photos. At first the man seemed pleasant but when I resisted his hugs and kisses he did not let go until I became angry and pushed him away.
    In this first situation, I was not fearful because I was quite certain I could get away. Honestly, I am not sure I could have gotten away, but he was a smaller older man and I tell myself that I would fight aggressively if necessary.
    I wondered if there was a cultural disconnect. If so and if the man at this station is well-intentioned, I hope that some of the peregrinos who are more fluent in Portuguese will explain to him how unpleasant and frightening it is for a woman travelling alone to be touched. In my world, his behavior (especially when he held on after I resisted) would be considered assault.

    Much later in the trip I had another incident. I was walking alone. The man was in a farm area. He grabbed both of my arms and kissed me on my cheeks repeatedly. He talked quickly and I could not understand what he was saying. When I tried to push him away, he squeezed my arms tighter. This time I was quite frightened. After several minutes of unpleasantness, he released me and I went on. I spoke to another peregrina who had walked alone that day and she had received similar treatment from this same man.
    My hope is that this behavior from these two men will stop if others explain to them that they should not touch any peregrinos without permission and especially no touching of a peregrina travelling alone.
    In the meantime, my recommendation to other peregrinas is to be very defensive around men you encounter on the path. Know how to say "do not touch" in Portuguese and Spanish and have your sticks out and ready to use if necessary.
    After these two incidents, I decided that another such incident would not occur to me without a fight.
     
    Maša Spalatin and yaying like this.
  2. MinaKamina

    MinaKamina Active Member

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    I am sincerely surprised that someone would assume that knowing the right words in Spanish or Portuguese would stop an offender.
    Or that an explanation in Portuguese will stop that kind of harassment. Does anyone really think that this is acceptable behaviour among the Portuguese?
    This isn't about any 'cultural disconnect' but basically about yourself and your own boundaries: you don't want anyone to touch you, period.

    No course in self defense will teach you to engage in a polite conversation with a perp. Use your poles to keep them at a distance.
     
    TaraWalks, JCLima and yaying like this.
  3. pelerine

    pelerine Member Donating Member

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    I wholeheartedly agree! Use your poles!
     
    TaraWalks, yaying and MinaKamina like this.
  4. Bradypus

    Bradypus Antediluvian

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    Too many and too often!
    yaying likes this.
  5. cher99840

    cher99840 Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I don't think a situation like this is an "either/or" (Don't touch me vs pole defense). I can well imagine a person who 1) Default mode is thinking the best of locals met on Camino; 2) Default mode in a trying situation is a feeling of helplessness due to language. I can understand that speaking a firm "Don't touch me" in the offenders own language would empower the victim to go to the next step of defense. The ability to convey her position gives her the satisfaction of knowing she's done all she could to discourage this behavior and some of us need that before resorting to violence.
     
  6. peregrina2000

    peregrina2000 Moderator Staff Member Donating Member Donating Member

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    See this thread for the background to this notice: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...women-on-the-camino-tips-from-the-mods.47474/

    There is continuing concern about incidents affecting female pilgrims. We reiterate the advice given by a number of pilgrim associations and the Spanish authorities:

    Before you set out, programme the emergency number 112 into your telephone.

    Consider downloading this App issued by the Spanish government:

    https://alertcops.ses.mir.es/mialertcops/info/info.xhtml

    The app allows anyone in Spain to send an alert from a mobile device "smartphone'"straight to the police..

    If you feel threatened or uncomfortable or if you are assaulted in any way TRY TO REMOVE yourself to a place of safety immediately

    Call the police – the best number to use is 112 which covers all of Spain (and much of Europe) and which has operators who speak English.

    And please, please, REPORT all incidents to the police. Too many of these unlawful aggressions are never reported, which means that the full extent of the problem is hidden from the authorities.
     
  7. Icacos

    Icacos Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Recently, I've been thinking that I should perhaps be more conscious of remaining alert to what is happening around me - particularly when I am walking alone - and, more importantly, asking myself what would I do if suddenly I found someone had encroached, or was beginning to encroach, on my space. Based on something that happened to me recently, I am thinking that a loud and definitively delivered "Keep back!" could be a good response to keep in one's arsenal. This would need to be delivered before physical contact was made. It's an 'offensive' move, and it might be presumptuous in the extreme, and even downright rude. It is contrary to what we have been taught but, based on how I've seen it used, I think it could be very effective. Comments?
     
    yaying, MinaKamina and timr like this.
  8. nycwalking

    nycwalking Veteran Member

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    We women MUST become our first and best safety net. We often feel guilty or bad when we allow ourselves to self protect. It is okay not to allow a man to put his hands on you. Culture or no: saying no, or do not touch me is just fine.

    Right now in the USA #metoo is a platform for victims/survivors of sexual abuse. However, I would rather not join the club, if at all posiible.

    Try and stop the abuse before it starts. No, is not a bad word!
     
  9. MinaKamina

    MinaKamina Active Member

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    This is neither about 'thinking the best of locals' versus 'resorting to violence'.
    There are many shades of grey and options in between. The main point is about keeping safe in a vulnerable position, and more keeping safe specifically for women. Awareness and self-defence start long before the point of having to resort to force.

    Back home, one would not dream of thinking the best of everyone, not would you teach this to your children, or your mother would teach you for that matter.
    There is no realistic ground to assume that only good people happen to live in the triangle between Lisbon, Santiago de Compostela and St JeandPP.
    How is that supposed to happen, does the Spanish government select them at the border and somehow manages to keep the bad apples out?

    Bradypus posted a link to a recent news story of a sexual assault on a young Korean peregrina near Viana. The girl got into a car of man who promised to drive her to Logroño. She learned the hard way that thinking the best of the locals has its risks, and it might have ended even worse and her knowledge of "do not touch" in any language would not have been of much help. Just as well the Police was nearby.
     
    yaying and nycwalking like this.
  10. Walking Lover

    Walking Lover Member

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    My husband and I walked this route in July. On two different occasions and in two different stages, women reported men masturbating in front of them. At another time, a woman was taunted by two young teens. I recommend that females always keep another pilgrim in sight and to carry mace.
     
    TaraWalks, MinaKamina and yaying like this.
  11. Aussie Cossie Tanya

    Aussie Cossie Tanya Walk over the day or the day will walk over you:)

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    NO is No in any language. Don't be afraid to use it and LOUDLY..
     
    TaraWalks, MinaKamina and SabineP like this.
  12. elizason

    elizason New Member

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    Hello all,
    Out walking back to the albergue in Santarem on an empty street with a fellow female pilgrim, we were being followed by a man whom appeared to be a bit threatening...I am a good 30 years older than the young German girl I was with and have traveled alone for many years.
    The method I have used in the past and chose to use at this particular time was ...I turned and faced him and proceeded to scream and wave my arms like a totally crazy person, which went on for a good 5 minutes before he realized I was too nuts to deal with and walked away looking puzzled.
    I have used my crazy routine for many years now, it works for me....best wishes for all you women
    Stay Strong Stand Tall
    Best wishes !
    Eliza
     
  13. JCLima

    JCLima Member

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    We, the Portuguese, touch a little bit more than other cultures.
    We will kiss each other on the cheek even if we are meeting for the first time BUT we dont go around grabbing, kissing and hugging random people on the street.

    That behavior is not acceptable even for Portuguese standards.

    If you can, report them! Even if legal action can be taken maybe some "social" action will solve the problem at some level.

    Some other words that may help you are "Pare!" (Stop!) and "Socorro" or "Ajuda" (Help!)
     
  14. Icacos

    Icacos Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Congratulations! I’ve long wanted to try that technique the next time I’m approached at an intersection by one of those ‘squeegie’ guys planning to clean my windshield.
     
    cher99840 likes this.
  15. Sailor

    Sailor Lifetime Membership Donating Member

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    Sick, sick, sick . . . and reading about a young lady accepting a ride and getting into a car [with a complete stranger, and in a foreign land] made me sick too. Common Sense Wanted! Que la luz de Dios alumbre su camino.
     
    nycwalking likes this.
  16. VNwalking

    VNwalking Veteran Member Donating Member

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    People have asked in other threads if mace is legal in Spain.
    It is definitely illegal in much of the EU though not entirely in Spain.
    Here is the definitive list.
    That said, I cannot imagine carrying mace on the Camino, and feel it's totally in opposition to the spirit of the way.

    I'm not saying don't protect yourself. Nor am I talking from a bubble of denial - I'm a woman who often walks the Camino alone, and I have had several occasions to feel unsafe: being followed by a car on a lonely road outside of Viana, or being kissed (yuck) by an older gentleman in Castrojerez, and once on the meseta there was a guy who thought I might enjoy seeing his privates (double-yuck).

    So from that place I would say please, please ~ leave the mace at home, but:
    • Trust your gut about safety and if you feel unsafe, do not walk alone.
    • On more remote parts of the more well-traveled caminos, try to walk within sight of other people.
    • Keep your wits about you - this is not some spiritual la-la land, but the real world with it's fair share of creeps and villains. So do not leave your common sense at home, and know how to defend yourself if you need to. Don't get paranoid, but also don't assume it could never happen to you.
    And report report report. (Reading this Korean pilgrim's sad story gives me goosebumps - this might be the same guy who followed me and so I really wish I had said something.)

    This thread sadly shows that the Camino is not completely safe. It never was.
    But it also shows how to respond to harm with wisdom, love, and forgiveness. (@The World My Village, you are an inspiration to many of us. Long may you continue to walk in peace!)
     
    nycwalking and C clearly like this.
  17. JLuis

    JLuis Member

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    I am very sorry for all of this.
    The Portuguese Associations are working with the Portuguese Government to find a way to mitigate the problem, it is impossible to completely eliminate it.
    A very loud NO or STOP is totally understood by anyone in Portugal and Spain, no need to go in more intelectual conversations. The louder the better. A whistle is a great help, lots of backpacks have one on the chest strap. If not, buy one. Again, the louder the better. Please, ALWAYS report the incident, to the Police or at least to the person on the Albergue or Hotel or wherever you will stay, even if there where no real danger, exhibitionists are to be taken care by the authorities too.
    I need to know (really need) where was the second incident. "Much later in the trip I had another incident. I was walking alone. The man was in a farm area. He grabbed both of my arms and kissed me on my cheeks repeatedly."
    Portugal? Spain? Near what town? It is very important to have those informations so I can pass them up.
    I know it is not easy, but please try to remember (and report) everything. Where? How old he looked like? His clothes? Hair? Was he walking, on bike, on a car? Etc etc etc, everything can be important, sometimes it's a small detail that provide the clue about him. Try to write everything, the sooner the better. I know this is easy to say here, but terrible to do. You will be helping other women.
    Bom Caminho
     
    Jess Sebastian, JCLima and MinaKamina like this.
  18. sojourners

    sojourners New Member

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    For some years in the 80s I was a partner in the largest martial arts center in Los Angeles. We provided self defense classes to people referred to us by the Los Angeles Rape Crisis Center on a pro bono basis. During this time I worked with many people who had been violated, from whom I heard horror stories. Most of these people said they would fight to the death rather than allow themselves to be violated again. I’ve worked in Europe, including Spain and Portugal, off and on for over forty years. I now live in Europe, and have for the last ten years. My wife and I traveled the Camino in 2015. I offer some of my background so that you will know where my comments come from.

    The Camino is not Disneyland, or a mystical paradise where people of ill intent do not exist.

    “He grabbed both of my arms and kissed me on my cheeks repeatedly. He talked quickly and I could not understand what he was saying. When I tried to push him away, he squeezed my arms tighter. This time I was quite frightened.”

    At this point you have been physically assaulted and are morally correct to defend yourself by whatever means necessary.

    “After these two incidents, I decided that another such incident would not occur to me without a fight.”

    This is a rational response. I see other posts that offer various kinds of advice, from pepper spray to screaming, many of them more concerned about the legalities of self defense than the realities.

    The laws and regulations concerning self defense in Europe are a confusing patchwork that varies from country to country, region to region, town to town, and which make no sense whatever. It is not possible to defend oneself from physical attack in Europe without violating a law or regulation in some place or another. Few of those laws and regulations are actually enforced. Enforcement is up to decisions made by the individual police officer. Those decisions will vary from officer to officer, and most importantly, according to his perception of you and the situation. If you have been attacked, or perceive an imminent attack, you are morally justified in defending yourself by whatever means necessary. Let your judgement and sense of danger be your guide. Defend your person, at the level that’s a reasonable response to the threat, or become a victim. Let the legalities sort themselves out after the fact.
     
    TaraWalks, Bala and MinaKamina like this.
  19. Mary Joy O'Meara

    Mary Joy O'Meara New Member

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    I believe (95% sure) the second incident occurred somewhere between Ponte de Lima and Fontoura, although there is a small possibility that it occurred in the day or two prior. I know that it occurred before Fontoura because that is the last place that we stayed with the other peregrina (Anne or Anna from the Seattle area) who had experienced similar treatment. I am a profoundly non-visual person and I would not be able to identify the person if I saw him in a line-up. He was not a young person -- my guess is that he is in the 50-65 year age group. I think he was of average build for a Portuguese man of that age. His initial approach was very friendly and talkative. After he had hold of both of my arms he was more aggressive -- in terms of the hold, as well as the volume and speed of his speech. After what seemed like a long time (although it was probably only a couple of minutes), I reached into my pockets and tried to give him money. (I thought that perhaps that was his goal -- we had encountered a rather aggressive panhandler in Ponte de Lima the night before.) There was a short continued confusing struggle of sorts but he did not take the money and he then let me go. I wondered briefly if he really did not understand my panic until he saw that I was offering him money to get away. My recollection of the location is that he was in a rural farm area and he was positioned where he could see quite a ways in front and behind so that he could tell that my fellow peregrinos were far enough ahead that they would not be able to see him when he grabbed me. I was walking with other peregrinos that day but had simply fallen a bit behind when this occurred.

    I appreciate all the wonderful comments and suggestions others have shared.

    As a now-61-year-old woman who has always loved to do many things alone (hike, bike, swim, generally be out and about in the world -- often alone), I have encountered my fair share of challenges over the years, some significantly worse than what happened in Portugal this year. Although walking with another peregrino offers much protection, I hope that is not the only answer. For me to experience the Camino deeply, I hope to be able to continue to walk alone at least some of the time. This was my fourth Camino and I have walked alone a majority of the kilometers covered; these incidents were the first problems I have encountered. In the future I plan to be able to clearer in my interactions with strangers on the Camino. If a man still touches me after I have clearly said no, then I will know to defend myself and fight back without the confusion I felt in these two instances.

    Thanks to all for your support. Buen Camino!
     
    JLuis, JCLima, mspath and 3 others like this.
  20. JLuis

    JLuis Member

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    Thank you.

    Love and peace.
    Bom Caminho
     

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