For a woman, public transit can be a harrowing experience. Manspreading aside, we've all heard horror stories about the seedy stuff that happens to unwitting victims just trying to get from point A to point B — joining the ranks of whom is 30-year-old Kaitlyn Regehr, a British woman now enlisting the Internet to help her track down the man who spoke up on her behalf when she was groped on a bus. Her goal? Simply to buy her unsung hero a pint at a local pub to say thank you.
On Oct. 6, Regehr, 30, hopped a bus back to her place when a stranger fondled her. Of the incident, she told the Metropolitan police, "I was heading home on the 207 and a man grabbed my bum, and I moved out of the way." But instead of that uncomfortable silence many of us have experienced at some point when everyone else awkwardly looks the other way, Regehr was surprised to hear a voice cut through the crowd: "Someone saw it and he called out to the guy and said, 'Do you have women in your life? That could be your mother, that could be your sister. She is someone's sister.'"
And since the sleuthing minds on the Interwebz are like digital bloodhounds, Regehr decided to take her plea for help to the people. The writer/documentary filmmaker posted the account of her experience on her social media pages:
Naturally, the good people of the Internet took the call to action to heart, liking Regehr's Facebook post more than 60,000 times and sharing it nearly 34,000 times thus far. In the post, Regehr thanks the "tall, dark, and dapper" man for having the courage to speak up and, in doing so, humanizing assault. "You didn't turn away," she says. "You took a stand. You said something." And then she really hits the nail on the head in saying we should all endeavor to "stand up for each other" and "say something."
We can all be one of those voices cutting through the crowd by taking a few simple steps.
1. Reach Out
If you see someone get groped or otherwise inappropriately touched or spoken to, approach the victim and ask if they need help. Offer to call the police or wait with them until the police arrive. Try to snap a picture of the perpetrator, if doing so discreetly is possible. All of the these actions will serve to create a barrier between the victim and the perp.
2. Speak Up
If you are unable to physically make it to the victim's side — in Regehr's case, they were likely separated by a busload of people — use your voice. You obviously don't want to exacerbate the situation or cause the perpetrator to lash out at the victim, so try appealing to their humanity. Regehr's hero was spot-on in his approach.
3. Report It
If you saw a crime being committed in the streets, you'd call the cops, right? Exactly. This. Is. A. Crime. Why aren't more people reporting sexual assault in public places when witnessed? Even if you remain anonymous, a call to the cops means you aren't inadvertently being complicit.
4. Go Viral
In taking her story to the people, Regehr isn't just expressing gratitude to her everyday hero — she's also calling attention to a very real problem affecting women all over the world. In posting her harassment story online, she's raising awareness and increasing the odds others will do the same on their own behalf and on the behalf of others.
5. Don't Stop There
Gandhi once said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." If you speak up on behalf of someone being harassed, good for you! That's progress. You can keep the momentum going, though, by empowering young people to stand up to it as well. You can support organizations and initiatives that raise awareness, like Green Dot, etc.
So as for Regehr's hero, heck yeah, I hope they do track him down. In fact, if he comes to the States, I'd like to buy him a pint too. Because part of taking a stand also lies in applauding those who have the courage to do so.