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Safety for women on the Camino

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MODERATOR'S NOTE (from @c_clearly): This first post by @Kathar1na and the following ones were transferred from a now deleted thread. The thread included statistics on exhibitionism and sexual assault, effectiveness of whistles, and the type of advice that should or should not be given to women when they are concerned about safety. Some posts have been edited (very few, as indicated) to remove arguments on a subject that can be very difficult to discuss. I hope this decision will be accepted by all, and that these remaining posts are useful.

Picking up partway through the thread, the post from Kathar1na begins below:

I am not interested in reading detailed comparisons and risk analysis on the forum or whether such incidences happen in the US or England or wherever. I can get it from the internet and elsewhere. What I am interested in: What happened on a camino? Where did it happen? How did she get out of it? What was the follow-up? How can it be prevented to happen again where it happened.
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... Using that whistle does not always make the flashers stop. Don't forget that they know the area much better than the pilgrim that just passes by.

They are not harmless either. And it is not because there has not been a physical attack that one can't feel victimised. On the contrary.

And yes, I have probably more chance to drive my car in my own country and be involved in an accident than getting flashed or assaulted on a Camino but that is a false comparison.
At home I'm in a well known environment and I fully understand the language.
On a Camino I will be much more vulnerable and more unknown factors have to be taken into consideration. Even if my Spanish is passable it would be hard to explain what happened if I would become a victim and wanted to make an official complaint with the police.
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Another post "telling" a woman why she should feel safe, where she should feel safe and how she should take care of herself. When even one woman is attacked, flashed, intimidated, raped, murdered... statistics mean absolutely nothing. Zero. The term "less likely" means nothing.

Flashing is an act of misogynistic aggression. It has happened to me in remote places and it has happened to me on a busy street. When it happened, I did not think, to quote the OP "flashers - who are really harmless -They are not sociopathic rapist - they are neurotics who can often benefit from therapy." No.
I was being assaulted by an aggressive male who wanted to see the fear in me. And he did.

The fear is managed and does not stop me in my everyday life or in my travels but I carry it with me as a protection, as a reminder that violence toward women can happen anywhere, anytime - statistics do not change the understanding of that.
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First, carrying a whistle is an essential piece of equipment for any hiker.
The whistle should be carried or affixed to a backpack strap. It should not be worn around the neck, because a chain can be used to choke attack a victim.

Secondly, please do not make harmful statements like " If every woman on the Camino carried a police whistle, the flasher problem would be cut in half. ". This is victim-blaming akin to "If women dress modestly they won't get raped".

The real issue is a culture where sexual violence against women is not taken seriously enough. A whistle or clothing style will not stop a predator.

Spain has toughened laws in recent years regarding gender-based violence. These are great policy changes for a safer Spain - it will mean a safer Camino. The message needs to be loud and clear that sexual violence will never be tolerated.

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This original post seemed to have good intentions of encouraging women to walk, but the statements are deeply offensive/hurtful. I hope the OP will take time to understand why. We can all learn from each other on this forum and share with good will, as we will on the Camino.

A woman being forced to look at a man's genitals or a man masturbating is not okay or harmless. It is a sexual crime against women. And if someone has had a history of being sexually assaulted, I can only imagine that such an experience could be particularly traumatic.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law followed up on exhibitionists for 13 years and found that almost one-third were later charged and/or convicted of sexual/violent crimes. The authors of the study believe these numbers to be underrepresented and that the rates are actually higher. They also found that nearly 40% of exhibitionists graduated from "hands off" to "hands on" offenses.

On this very forum, from fall 2019, a woman named Sara posted video about how she was flashed by a man on the Camino and later, in a different part of the Camino, that very same man flashed her again and chased her. She believed herself to be running for her life, and incredibly, happened to run for help into the house of a police officer on his day off. The flasher had a knife on him and had previously been convicted of RAPE. Sara pressed charges and testified in court because she did not want the man to get away with it and do this to someone else.

Sara's video made me realize that when I walk the Camino, I would absolutely report any flasher I see and take photos for police if possible. The person who flashes you on the Camino in one moment could be trying to rape another woman in another moment. And even without that, no man should be allowed to do that to woman after woman on the Camino.

For me, for my history and life experiences, I would not let the possibility of assault stop me from walking the Camino. I will walk it and take actions that help me feel safe, knowing this will be different for each person. But I would never tell another woman what she should or should not do to feel safe on the Camino, what is safe or not safe for her, or IF the camino is or is not safe for her. Sexual assault can happen at any moment, walking alone in remote places creates the potential for great vulnerability, and statistics don't matter if you are the one being raped or the one running for your life.

Also, sexual assault and violence against women are universal and a deep problem in every single society and country throughout time. Discussing very real dangers against women who are walking the Camino is not a slight in any way against the people of Spain--although the recent knife attacks against the women on the Camino and the abominable police response/indifference are something that absolutely need to be addressed.
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Loved and fed by David
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1. I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say or imply that a man can never give valid advice to a woman on matters of personal safety - but in my opinion, it is from from a totally different starting point. Men cannot - again: in my opinion - put themselves mentally in a woman’s place in terms of feeling at-risk. I know I’m in danger of seeming old-fashioned in referring to two genders when others are available and so on, but I don’t think this is a nuanced discussion.

2. when in an unintentional hole, no matter how well motivated, perhaps consider stopping digging?

(I’m male and largely repeating what my wife told me; but she’s really very switched-on)


Veteran Member
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A few times
I do not think the OP intended to offend anyone.
I am a big proponent for carrying the loudest whistle you can on your backpack, and not just for discouraging an assault. It can also deter the occasional vicious dog, and of course if you get lost or injured, can help pinpoint your location. I used to carry an orange colored plastic one used for boating and attach it to my scuba diving BCD. It really was quite loud. Hurt your ears if blown loudly indoors and I am sure heard for quite a distance outdoors.
Screaming and yelling and fighting back if possible of course. As said before the attacker does not want attention drawn and thrives on passive victims. It obviously stopped the attack in the other thread.
I am saddened by the prospect of anyone changing their mind about walking the Camino due to concerns of being a victim of violent crime. I would say do not cancel walking it, but instead approach it a different manner and taking extra precautions when needed.


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Frances (2013-2015) Portugues (2017-2019) Via Francigena (2018-??) Camino from Ireland (2020-??)
Given the OP was concerned reports of attacks were scaring women off walking, especially solo, I actually want to say my experience was the opposite.
Having read many of the responses to women being attacked, raped or "flashed" I am impressed by the community on the forum for their concern and support of those who have been victimized. Most of the outrage seems to be when authorities failed in some way to address the incident seriously or well. I took the sharing of issues including flashers and attacks as realism which helped me on the second day when I did encounter a flasher that it was likely for me an isolated incident walking on the Camino and meant I got up and walked the next day and not give up (as well as making a report). In fact the honesty of the forum gave me courage to walk alone in the first place. Thank you to each person who has been open on this forum about negative things that happened while on the camino. To those who have responded in support of those who have been victimized and to those who have sought to address how authorities at times have failed in their response somehow -thank you as well. And for all the wonderful people I encountered walking pilgrim routes in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy I am truly thankful.

However, the OP has left me feeling upset, angry, guilty ... questioning walking alone (even though like a good hiker I carry a loud whistle)...even patronised... I can say that reassurance was not the result of the OP's postings in this thread for me
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I am not sure what to say coming so late to this thread, but am much more inclined to take @Sara_Dhooma 's post seriously than to be swayed by statistics offered to me from on high as if I did not have the ability and common sense to look them up for myself. She has been through an attack herself and acted with courage during and afterwards.

[name removed]...if you are taken aback by the blowback from your post, please consider taking a moment to reflect on some of the responses you've received, starting with the first one. I get your good intentions - fair enough. But others have already described very well what's getting in the the way and causing collective reactivity. The practice of right speech is tricky and so much depends on attitudes resting behind the words. See that, and everything changes.
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I don't like being "mansplained" to. As a 61-year-old woman who used both hands to shove a 230-pound man onto his backside on the way into Leon, I think it's misguided for anyone coming onto the forum to spout stats then reassure women that they can take care of assaults with a whistle. That's not helpful or realistic, especially in some of the remote areas we walk in.

Those of us who have been around for several years, and on this forum for many years too, have all studied and learned from pilgrim assaults. We were here in 2015 when one of our own was attacked and murdered on Camino.

No need to patronize. Most of us here are experienced and educated, and it may be wise to realize that many of the pilgrims here have hiked many times alone and don't need a shepherd--or anyone to cast an evil eye, or bandage wounds, or teach us how to use hiking sticks.
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Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
When a man, albeit a nice man wishing to comfort quotes statistics to women with regard to this place being safer than that place I get a bit miffed.

Forty years ago, I was flashed in my carport in Los Angeles, California. I called the police. They came. Commiserated. Took report. Done.

On my first camino, nineteen years ago, I was flashed as I walked along one of those ubiquitous stretches where other pilgrims may be five minutes ahead or behind yet completely out of sight.

A giddy guy rode his bike towards me, sans saying the obligatory “buen camino”. Up went my antenna. And, why was he riding towards me.

He circled back still chuckling like a hyena, and fell off his bike into the bushes. As, I passed he got my attention and showed his netherlands.

I remained calm and walked on somewhat shaken. Did I call police no. Why? I didn’t know Spain’s emergency number and I neither thought to have asked the hospies to make call for me upon reaching the refugio. And, fear of reprisal. I was a foreign women in a foreign land how would I be received?

I have walked five solo caminos and each one I have dealt with at least one improper gesture, request, or comment from males within and without pilgrim community.

Until quite recently, I looked like a “very, very good-looking-hot-sexy-babe”, and somehow aggressive males interpret that to mean available for abuse or exploitation.

Since, I was thirteen, I learned to navigate those murky waters quite, quite well. But, things do happen on occasion.

Ergo, telling me and other women we will likely encounter far more harassment stateside than in Spain due to statistics does not negate reality.

Flashed in Spain is just as unnerving as flashed in USA, stats be d*****!
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Don Camillo

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Back in the day I was responsible, along with a couple of other's, for a small rural town. We had a local "flasher" who had "M" issue's. Far from being "harmless" he was a serious crime waiting to happen. Over about a year his behaviour gravitated until finally he upped the stakes which resulted in 6 months prison. My point is that some of these characters may well be of low risk - but far from harmless in terms of their impact on their victims - but some are on a journey to behaviour as detailed above.
To assume they are "harmless" would be a mistake. To assume that whatever their behaviour they are of low impact on their victims is also in error.
The reality as far as I can remember is that deliberate exposure was rare and almost all the time the offenders were known. I am going to guess that given the overall crime rates in Spain compared to UK that the incidence of "flashing" in Spain is even rarer. That though is of no comfort if you are a victim of this.
Just be aware of your situation, read up on where or what stage you are walking, where you can run to or go to get help. In remote area's make a mental note of the last house you saw. Always know where you are in case you do have to call someone. Sensible precautions solo traveller or not.
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Screenshot 2020-09-28 at 09.46.05.png
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I am sorry I cannot improve the quality of the document. I found it just now in the weekend edition of The Irish Times. I resorted to taking a screenshot of a scan as I don't have a digital subscription.


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C clearly

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People have had a chance to express their views. I don't think that continued debate and comparison of statistics is particularly useful here.

My own thoughts about the thread are complex and mixed - as the whole topic is. However, I think it is a good idea to close the thread now. If you think I am wrong to do so, feel free to send me a PM or report this post, explaining why keeping the thread open would contribute positively to peregrina safety or to forum content.
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