I was in Westfield in Shepherds Bush a few years back, when I witnessed something that’s remained with me ever since!
I could see a woman following a man whilst hitting him with her handbag. He was ducking and diving and walking away. However, as I turned the corner towards him, he attempted to pick up the bin so that he could throw it at her.
My kneejerk reaction was to say “Please don’t” and amazingly he put the bin down and walked away.
I was relieved and didn’t really have a chance to process what happened when I passed the woman who was trying to fix herself whilst telling her daughter not to cry. Her daughter seemed to be younger than 7 years old and she was in tears. Her mum was telling her not to be scared and that it’s important for ‘us’ to fight for ‘our’ rights and stand up for ‘ourselves’.
I could see that she was trying to empower her child to be assertive, to know what’s right and wrong and to be comfortable with challenging abuse. However, what if he had picked up the bin, thrown it at her and injured her? What if he used some other weapon to hurt, or even, kill her?
I found out later that she was looking around in Claire’s Accessories when he went passed shouting all sorts of abuse at her. He didn’t know her. He looked at her, made a judgement and started swearing and shouting offensive remarks. The member of staff I spoke with said it was awful and she felt really bad for the woman having to endure it.
OK so he said horrible stuff, he was out of order and he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. I agree with all of this. BUT at what cost? After thinking about it, I was brought to tears by the fact that her determination to retaliate against his verbal abuse in a physical way, could have left her hurt or dead. What would have happened to her daughter then? Would it have been wiser for her to ignore him and ensure that she and her family were safe?