05 Nov 2018

A streetcar named harassment

Video footage from a Belgrade tram, showing a man harassing a girl in front of other passengers, disturbed the Serbian public. The attacker was arrested, but the country's widespread culture of sexual violence against women remains unchecked. 

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
A streetcar named harassment - NewsMavens
Woman and Tram, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

Sexual harassment appears in many different forms, but victims often have no proof. In the "Belgrade tram" case, however, the violent act was caught on camera. 

Even though it provoked much needed discussions on a topic that is often overlooked, public responses to the event show a lack of understanding of different ways in which people react to violence, in this case -- the victim (and other passengers as well). 

 

The public was shocked by the absence of reactions by both passengers and the driver. Some of the commentators on social media even accused the victim of not doing enough to defend herself. 

But what seems to be a lack of response is in fact a common reaction.

Victims often "freeze" when they can't run away, and fear making the situation worse by defending themselves. 

But the "Belgrade tram case" shows that few people are aware of the "freezing phenomenon". This is yet another example of a crowd bizarrely directing its hatred towards the victim rather than the attacker, thus leaving the root problem unsolved. 

Details from the story:

  • The facebook page "Live from trams and buses of Belgrade" published security camera footage from one of Belgrade's trams which shows a woman being approached by a man, who then starts aggressively rubbing himself against her. The other passengers see but do not react. 
  • The video was widely shared across social media. The reactions of the Serbian public went from advocating violence against the attacker to blaming the other passengers and the tram driver for their lack of reaction during the event. 
  • The police have identified and arrested the attacker. 
  • According to the Autonomous Women's Center (Autonomni ženski centar, AŽC), nine out of ten Serbian women have experienced one or more forms of sexual violence. Every third Serbian woman regularly experiences some form of unwanted touching. 
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