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Pilgrim Safety

Traveldays

New Member
I've just recently returned from doing the Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances), and this is my first chance to be able to send this.

I was walking with another woman about a week ago shortly after 2 pm approximately 2 km outside of Sarria (in Galicia), very near the local railway track, along the camino route. The track itself was relatively remote and narrow, and as we turned a 'blind' corner, we were confronted by a male (blond hair, in his twenties, maybe 5ft 10", in what appeared to be 'pilgrim' clothes and gear) standing by the side of the track, facing on to it, with his trousers lowered, who started to masturbate as we turned the corner and passed him. We got to the nearest village, Barbedela, and told another female pilgrim (Spanish) walking on her own. A woman who ran the main albergue there said she would pass our information on to the police. Her face fell when she was informed he was a 'pelegrino'. We waited in Barbedela for about 45 minutes and didn't see him appear.

It was a disturbing experience, designed at least, to intimidate. I realise that in distributing this kind of information, this individual may get his inadequate thrills. We do, however, believe, that our experience, and the 'strategicness' and coolness with which he behaved more than warrants warning other women.

No matter how worldly wise you are, walking the camino, and staying in refugios etc, at any point, is based on trust. Sarria's location, being 100km from Santiago, makes it a very popular starting point for the camino (the minimum distance required to qualify for the compostela, for example). By the afternoon, typically, there are fewer people walking the camino. As a pilgrim, you're also particularly physically compromised by the backpack you carry. There are the variety of gradients, the isolated parts of track, and the physical exertion. Interestingly, he brazenly behaved like this, despite or indeed, maybe because, there were two of us. He plays on some of our worst fears. Being a 'pilgrim', he has the ability to blend in with other walkers. Given the transitory nature and flow of pilgrims, the ability to pass on or exchange information/warnings is completely inadequate. Yes, there is a lot of goodwill along the way, the customary exchange of 'buen camino' greetings and smiles. We haven't forgotten the great and decent people we met along the way. Reminding oneself of the alleged relative low risks of danger is, however, meaningless if, as we believe, this kind of individual is exploiting all the factors which comprise the heart of the camino experience.

My fellow female companion and I consider ourselves lucky. Ideally, of course, people like this individual need to be stopped. Leaving aside this particular individual, we think there are wider lessons to be drawn for other female walkers who are currently walking or considering walking the camino.
 
D

Deleted member 3000

Guest
From the American Psychological Association:

Definition of Exhibitionism
Exhibitionism ("Flashing"): Exhibitionism is characterized by intense, sexually arousing fantasies, urges or behaviors involving exposure of the individual's genitals to an unsuspecting stranger. The individual with this problem, sometimes called a "flasher," feels a need to surprise, shock or impress his victims. The condition usually is limited to the exposure, with no other harmful advances made, although "indecent exposure" is illegal. Actual sexual contact with the victim is rare. However, the person may masturbate while exposing himself or while fantasizing about exposing himself.

I know I will take some hits for condoning, in some manner, "flashing." I am not trying to marginalize the trauma to women of being flashed. You have 100% of my sympathy and support. Law enforcement in Spain should be much more aggressive in prosecuting flashers. Men rarely are subject to flashers, so our perspective is very incomplete. When we are flashed, and it happens (perhaps in error), we do not feel physically threatened as women are.

That said, I also do not want to see women avoid a pilgrimage because of fear of a flasher. They are not viewed as being particularly "dangerous" by the psychological world. If you view them as the annoyance that they are, report them to the authorities, and press Spain to take action against them through complaints to tourist bureaus and embassies, you should be able to walk in serenity.

Here's hoping everyone has a safe and pleasant pilgrimage.
 
Thank you for reporting your situation. It sounds like you were able to still enjoy your Camino and not let that creep ruin things for you. Good for you, and congratulations on completing your journey.

I agree with the suggestion that we need to be firm about reporting these events to the police. I get the sense that often they are not reported, and viewed as rare incidents, which I found to be the opposite.

I have previously posted my 3 sightings, 2 of which were the same man, and find it interesting to hear the response of others say that we should take a picture of the flasher. I truly believe that it would be absolutely insane and foolish to do this - risking my safety by recording evidence of a criminal's activity in front of me. I would then have to start running away from him, with a heavy pack, alone in the forest, down/up a rocky gully - worried that he would come after me. Not the actions of someone who wants to survive.

I appreciate the fact that people who present research and profiles of exhibitionists, regarding the low risk of physical harm from these men, are just trying to ease our fears. However, when you are alone, in a foreign country, with no other pilgrims in sight, you just want to be safe. I never walked alone after my incidents, and was fortunate to complete a wonderful journey in the company of some wonderful pilgrim friends.

I wish everyone a safe and wonderful Camino!
 

Sagalouts

RIP 2015
Shock, horror!
20 something male seen masturbating on the camino,whatever next?
while not trying to diminish the obvious trauma felt by the women involved in these sightings,i hardly think they are dangerous.
in fact as my wife rosie said this morning on our daily training walk the only person in danger would be anybody foolish enough to stand in front of her exposing themselves with his trousers round his ankles.
while appreciating that not everybody is the same, at the most i think these sightings are more of a nuisance than a danger.
rage in her blog "walking across spain" decribes spain as being full of lechy old men asking for a little "beso" and her john briely guide warns of possible amorous advances at some stops,and thats from the proprietor!. she rightly treated these as nuisances only.
Ian and rosie
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2006,08,09,11,12(2),13(2),14,16(2),18(2) Aragones 11,12,VDLP 11,13,Lourdes 12,Malaga 16,Port 06
Well, to put things in perspective I live in Portland, Oregon.
I was riding my bicycle home one afternoon and crossed the Burnside Bride, a VERY busy bridge with lots of rush hour traffic rushing past.

And on the side of the road was a young man (20's) with his pants down, masturbating so fast I thought his arm might break! ::laughing:::

Shocked? Heck YES!
Embarrassed? Well, yes..
Afraid? Naww... I just laughed and kept on riding

They're everywhere... everywhere... and generally, I think you can be assured they are not dangerous. But it can be unnerving, I admit.
 

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