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Sexual harassment in Leon

Discussion in 'Personal Safety' started by Stella Kim, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Stella Kim

    Stella Kim New Member

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    I've been walking the Camino with a friend and so far it's been a great experience. But this morning, around 10, it was slightly ruined by an unpleasant experience with a man who approached us in an alley after we passed the Leon Cathedral, following the yellow arrows. He looked at us as we walked past him, then quickly stepped up behind us, tapped me on my shoulder, and started saying something in Spanish. When I stopped and said, "Excuse me?" he switched to English and pointed to me and my friend, and said "You f**k me." I didn't hear him right the first time but he repeated it a second time. Flustered, we said no and started walking faster and thankfully he didn't follow us. We then ran into a policewoman nearby so we explained the situation a bit.

    The man was about 5'7 ish, was wearing glasses, short blond brownish hair, and on the skinny side. He seemed to be targetting female pilgrims, as there seemed to have been others who talked to the police.

    I know there are crazy people everywhere and our encounter woth the man was more or less harmless, but I would have felt more scared and unsafe had I been alone.

    So hope he stops harassing women and buen camino to all the pilgrims out there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2017 at 7:06 PM
  2. HedaP

    HedaP Active Member Donating Member

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    Glad you weren’t alone. You did all the right things. Stay safe and happy.
     
  3. wayfarer

    wayfarer Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    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.
     
  4. natefaith

    natefaith Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    So sorry to hear you had a very unpleasant encounter, Stella. I imagine you and your friend might be a bit shaken up! Hope you guys can keep talking about it if you need to and recover from it. Glad you're OK and that you were able to tell the police.

    Have a Buen Camino from here on out.
     
    Morg, CaminoDebrita, yaying and 4 others like this.
  5. Rebekah Scott

    Rebekah Scott Camino Busybody Donating Member

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    He may not be a dangerous lunatic, but he's obviously delusional, if he thinks that approach is going to get him anywhere. What a jerk! I'm glad you shook him off and told the law.
     
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  6. Stella Kim

    Stella Kim New Member

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    @wayfarer Thank you for the info! We were glad that there were police officers nearby because we might not have been able to talk about it or even think about calling 112.

    And thank you all for your support. We're completely fine now :)
    It was an unnerving experience, but we're safe and well, and resting in hammocks.
     
  7. Jomas

    Jomas New Member

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    it will be (2018) my first journey on the way of the saint
    oh! that unfortunate situation! fortunately without worse consequences
    buen camino
     
    Stella Kim and yaying like this.
  8. Stivandrer

    Stivandrer Active Member Donating Member

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    oh dear - this app does not recognize only 7 digits in my passport.
     
    yaying likes this.
  9. nycwalking

    nycwalking Veteran Member

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    Don't let one bad apple spoil the rest of your camino. At least you were walking with another woman.
    Buen camino.
     
    Stella Kim and yaying like this.
  10. intrepidtraveler

    intrepidtraveler Active Member Donating Member

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    What I 'm finding concerning is what strikes me as a lot higher occurrence of these harassment incidents. Two years ago when I walked the Camino for the first time I remember reading about a few reports of this nature, but not many. Within the last few months these reports seem to be showing up more frequently. Are we just getting better at reporting or is the problem becoming bigger? And if the latter, why?
     
  11. JohnnieWalker

    JohnnieWalker Nunca se camina solo Donating Member

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    I'm afraid you may be correct. Although there are no official statistics I think we have seen an exponential growth in such incidents. I think this could be for a number of reasons including increased pilgrim numbers and also chronic long term unemployment amongst some age groups in Spain.
    What I've been debating is whether we continue to advise that the Camino is generally a safe place especially for women walking alone. On balance I think it is but these days there is more cause to be cautious - to carry a whistle and a mobile and be aware of your surroundings. I also think that the camino associations need to keep making representations to the Spanish authorities to police the routes more vigorously. This has certainly helped eradicate the problems which existed on the camino inglés and parts of the Francés.

    A sign of the times perhaps.
     
  12. MTtoCamino

    MTtoCamino Veteran Member

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    My impression leaving Leon was there was quite a party crowd left from the night before slowly making there way back home. My first concern was for the single females walking alone. As I had still drunk men get a bit aggressive with remarks, until I stepped right up. I am glad there were 2 of you. It is a place I would recommend people walk together when leaving Leon in the morning.
    Buen Camino
    Keith
     
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  13. wayfarer

    wayfarer Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    Some posts have been deleted. Please stay on topic and PLEASE do not try to excuse, explain away or make light of any incident reported on this forum regarding sexual assault or harassment.
     
  14. MinaKamina

    MinaKamina Active Member

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    I probably have missed part of the discussion. So I hope I am not repeating, and apologize if I am but here are my two cents. IMHO before you leave for a Camino (or any other hike) it pays to take a course in self defense and become a little more streetwise. The phrase Excuse me? may be a killer in certain parts of the English speaking world, but it has no impact whatsoever in the rest of the world, other than that the perpetrator notices that you are in fact engaging in a conversation with him. Like a fish that bites the hook. And why would you invite that person to tell you more? Or tap you on the one shoulder and pick your pockets on the other side? Don't let them. If you really feel you want to turn around, shout BOOOO! and walk on at a firm pace. Walk on at a firm pace anyway. Do you have a whistle on your bakpack? Train yourself to use it.

    It must have been a rather unpleasant encounter. The good news is that you are not powerless and you can protect yourself by taking simple precautions.
     
    Camino Chris and Morg like this.
  15. C clearly

    C clearly Veteran Member Donating Member

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    It didnt happen like this. The man spoke to the pilgrim in Spanish, pilgrim didnt understand and said "excuse me?", and only when the man spoke in English did she realize what he was saying. Seems to me that it was not an appropriate occasion for shouting and self defense moves, although your warning about taps on the shoulder was a good one.

    Your English is not good enough to participate in a discussion with strangers about a sensitive and culturally difficult topic. Your insistence about expressing these opinions in your first and only posts does not give a good impression! My advice is to avoid such topics until you are with people you know well.
     
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  16. MinaKamina

    MinaKamina Active Member

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    I think we have a different view on harassment. Tapping a complete stranger on the shoulder is an invasion of that person's space. There is no need to engage in a polite conversation with someone who acts like that.
    A predator will test what you are willing to put up with. If you allow him to touch you and also engage in a conversation, and even inform him that you are a foreigner, you open the way for his next step. Which is what happened.

    You may of course choose a different approach, but ask yourself what it will bring you.
     
  17. David Fletcher

    David Fletcher New Member

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    This was my experience as well -- I actually asked one of my walking companions (a single younger woman with whom I crossed paths several times over the pilgrimage) what it was like for her, and did she ever feel threatened. Her response was that she thought that pilgrims were generally well intended, but there were a few times where she'd ask someone to walk with her for a kilometre or two if she felt uncomfortable, especially in the larger cities. I think a good measure of common sense goes a long way.
     
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  18. Bumpa

    Bumpa Active Member Donating Member

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    Another good reason to carry treking poles. If approached from behind in an aggressive manner, turn around with both hands on the pole and hold it across your body slightly towards the other party. It does no harm, in case the approach is not as aggressive as you thought. It does however create a very noticeable barrier between the two of you. If in danger of an assault, push forward with the poles. If that doesn't work, lower one hand, pull back on the top hand and push forward with the lower hand and insert, not so gently, the pole into the crotch area of the aggressor. Then ask: "excuse me, what was it you wanted?"
     

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