Monday, August 20, 2007

Jeremy Vine Steps Up

The BBC News article Unmitigated ferocity, here I come caught my eye during my lunchtime news fix. In it Jeremy Vine talks about an incident he witnessed on the tube in which a man harassed a female passenger while the rest of the carriage looked on. As the man left, and the doors closed, another passenger flicked two fingers at him, only for the man to return and beat up the passenger when the doors happened to reopen.

This type of violence is now getting more common in most of the large towns and cities in Britain, and people lucky enough to have not experienced it first hand will probably think that they would not sit idly by and be a silent witness to it.

The reality, as Vine states, is quite different. As a nation we are relatively introverted and most people just want to get on with their day and not get involved. Plus there's the additional risks of getting the beating yourself, or being charged with assault if you happen to succeed in placating the thug.

As someone who has been on the receiving end of such violence the article struck a particular chord with me.

After a night out with friends I sat on the last bus home opposite two men (one older than the other) flanking a young woman looking very worse for wear and with no shoes on. I remember asking the older man (who was already glaring at me) if she was ok with no shoes on. For my trouble I got a stream of obscenities, but worse was to come when the bus approached my stop.

All three followed me from the bus and started kicking and punching until I managed to push past the shoeless girl and get away. Luckily they didn't pursue, as I was bleeding from my head and spent the rest of the night in Kings Mill Hospital.

Calling an ambulance for an assault led to a police report being filed for an ABH, and although I went through a number of mugshots and indicated a couple of potentials, nothing else has happened. Apparently the CCTV on the bus was not working on that night.

In hindsight I would have loved to have turned the violence back on them, but at the time all I could think was "This hurts, I need to get away", rather than "This hurts, I need to hurt them too". I suspect that this is the thought most people would have given a similar situation.

I would have liked for someone to help as Vine says he will do from now on, but I understood then as I do now the risks that someone else would be taking on my behalf. It's OK standing up to verbal abuse as he did on the bus, but wading into a fistfight is something else entirely.

I know I won't be physically fighting for a stranger any time soon, I prefer to keep my head down to avoid such confrontations in the first place. But I do admit that it is this mindset that is partially responsible for the violence we see now on almost a daily basis in the news.

Vine is right, by doing nothing we give the thugs permission to carry on as they are. But members of the public aren't the right people to be stopping such violence. Police do wade in and break up these fights when they happen late at night in the city centres, but who will stop the violence elsewhere?

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