Selene’s story of being harassed on the bus with ZERO bystander intervention

It’s been a while since this happened, but still, I figured I could share this story. It happened around Christmas time (late December) of 2011.

I was riding either the 14 or 18 to Rideau Centre. It was jam packed and, as such, I was stuck standing in the back of the bus. At the stop near the grocery store, a guy came in, carrying a radio. He ended up facing me. At first I thought he was rapping along to his music, but then I realized that he was complaining about music, women and society in general. He was pretty angry and I was pretty freaked out. I just kept staring outside.

I decided to try and get off even though it wasn’t my stop… but he wouldn’t let me. He looked at me straight in the eyes and went “Get off my fu–ing bus, you probably have a bus pass you stupid bi-c”. I FLIPPED. I was trying to look at my feet, pretending I didn’t know it was aimed at me. He kept on yelling, I couldn’t even register what he was saying. I had tears in my eyes from the stress I was experiencing, the bus was PACKED and I was trapped between this man and the back of the bus. I tried to look at other passengers for some sort of support or help. I didn’t want to speak up, the man was still screaming at me and I was too afraid to move. I could only plead with my eyes.

Best part?
No one did anything. They all heard him. Others were standing right next to him. There I was, a very tiny woman with an angry huge man shouting at me, and no one moved. Not even the businessmen sitting around me. No one.

Rideau was the next stop by then and thankfully, he got off. He started yelling obscenities at the crowd (one woman had the guts to tell him to shut up) and I just ran inside the mall. I saw him one more time outside Rideau since, still screaming and insulting people.

What gets to me is that NO ONE did anything. I was scared, I was almost crying, I was alone. People looked at me, they saw the fear in my eyes.

But no one moved.

No one said anything.

Thanks Ottawa.

Selene read her story here and wanted to include this follow-up:

In retrospect, I guess it was unfair of me to be angry at the other passengers (reading the story made me see it from a different angle). This man actually looked dangerous. He had one hand in his pocket as if he was looking for something. So even if the other passengers were strong-looking men, they were most likely just as worried as I was (concerned that this guy had a knife. He really looked unstable and dangerous). Men or women… against a dangerous individual, gender makes no difference. Even if he ranted at women, I’m not sure I was particularly targeted for my gender. I just happened to be the unfortunate person before him.

So I wonder, what should we do in such a situation?
I was worried that moving or screaming might provoke him further, the other passengers were probably afraid of interfering (we’ve seen good Samaritans get injured). What then? The bus was packed, I had no way of alerting the driver. People around me couldn’t possibly get past him either. Had he been armed (and perhaps he was), someone would have gotten injured.

Makes me genuinely wonder what to do.
This most likely wasn’t the time for someone to play hero, yet something needed to be done. I guess no one did anything… and I can’t blame them now that I think about it. I’m not sure what I would have done in their shoes.

Is there a way to avoid this situation? I wonder. Cameras would do no good. I don’t believe carrying firearms and the such is the answer either. I wonder.

So, Ottawa, I apologize. I think ALL of us were scared on the bus. We were all frozen in place. If anything, we’re all in this together. I hope that sharing the story might help us find a suitable solution. For victims and bystanders alike.


Hollaback! Ottawa’s response: Selene! Please don’t feel the need to apologize. The exasperation and frustration that you expressed about your situation has been echoed by many, many other passengers.

We need to educate transit users (and everyone in the city!) about bystander intervention, because you can intervene safely and effectively. ‘I’ve got your back!‘ is a great start!

As you can also see in the comments section, your story inspired others to take action.

Your voice is important!