Easy Target - Barry Hill

I read a Tweet today from a blind woman who said that she had serious trepidation getting back on tube trains after a week’sholiday.  Is she claustrophobic?  Nope.  Maybe she is one of these people who has an obsession about cleanliness and wants to avoid dirt and germs?  Uh-huh, it’s not that either.  .  She’s blind.  Ah, so she struggles with the logistics of using the underground.  Nope.  Get this: The reason she has trepidation is that she isn’t looking forward to being groped.  


Note that she’s not worried that she might get groped.  It’s a done deal.  She’s accepted that she’s going to be groped, she’s just not looking forward to it.  Holy shit - what’s happened to humanity when a blind woman ‘expects’ to be groped on a train?


When I first heard about this physical abuse of blind women, I thought it must be a one-off.  You’d think that it would take a particularly sick bastard to do that and surely there can’t be that many of them on the underground, can there?  Well, either the underground is a mecca for sick bastards or blind women really should stop wearing the ‘Feel free to feel my bum’ t-shirts.  


It seems that every blind woman who is even vaguely attractive and travels on the underground is fair game for these twisted Mister Tickles.  A recent survey found that pretty much all visually impaired women who use the tube have been groped at least once, and many usually on a regular basis.


I can only surmise that the thinking of these perverts is that the blind women are easy targets who can do nothing to stop the groping and nothing to point out the perpetrator.  She could perhaps bitch slap the guy up the side of the head, either verbally or, preferably, with a handbag loaded with a house brick.  Er…. Blind woman.  She’s as likely to bitch-slap an innocent person or a bloody mirror as to get the right person.  


Groping a blind woman is not like stealing candy from a baby.  Yeah, it’s as easy to do and get away with, but that doesn’t express the depth of depravity that groping someone who can’t see is.  Nope, I’m going to go for it being like mugging an old dear.  To attack such an easy target is morrally wrong and the reprocussions are massive.  


What’s wrong with these men?  Hold on – Men?  Let me rephrase that: What’s wrong with these sad, pathetic, selfish, morally corrupt, nasty, low-life scum?  They’re only one step away from wearing a dirty mack and hanging about in park bushes.


Perhaps we should make it a criminal offence like flashing is.  Hold on, it is a criminal offence!  


The legal term for groping is ‘Sexual touching’ and  it is a serious crime.  Fella’s, if you think it’s harmless,  reflect on this: It is sentenced under the same guidelines as sexual assault, with a maximum prison sentence of ten years.  I reckon the fact that the victim is blind would nudge a judge into looking at the longer stay in one of Her Majesty’s hotels. Oh, and you get to have your name on a register… for life.


Just to make it clear, check this out from the Crown Prosecution Service:


“Sexual assault is… when a person, male or female, touches another person sexually without their consent. Touching can be done with any part of the body or with an object.” 


It’s not just the feeling of being fondled like a TK Max bargain; it’s the reprocussions make it much, much worse.   


Personally, I’ve never been groped on public transport, so I can’t specifically empathise.  However, I can appreciate the trepidation of being abused in public on a daily basis.  


Whenever I have a negative interaction with a stranger, I am scared to revisit the location for days and sometimes weeks.  I’m not exaggerating here.  I am literally in fear; fear of being an easy target for retribution.  


Let me give you a fairly recent example.  A few weeks ago, me and my guide dog were walking through town when I happened to knock my arm against a young woman coming the other way. The interaction went like this:

Her: “Don’t apologise then.”

Me: “Hey, you silly cow, I can’t see you.  Can’t you tell that I’m blind what with the guide dog and all?”

Her friend: “Well how do you know she’s a girl?”


At this point I didn’t think that it was worth pointing out that there’s a difference between blind and deaf.  Granted, I was a little aggressive in my reaction, but what you can’t tell from this print is that her initial outburst was equally aggressive.  Plus, I was in an irritable mood.  It’s allowed.  Just because I’m blind and unavoidably an advocate for every other blind person, it doesn’t stop the odd day where I’m just pissed off with being jostled, bumped and knocked like a human pin ball and have already apologised to a dozen or so people that morning.  Most other days I do apologise, even though I feel like I’m apologising for a consequence of being blind.  It’s like a wheelchair user apologising to people who trip over their chair.  Sadly, that happens too.


Ok, I stood my ground and gave as good as I got, but I shouldn’t have.  I should have played it meek and mild.  I might have won that battle, but I lost the subsequent war without these two even having to think about me.  Every single time I walked along that stretch of pavement, and I do so nearly every time I go to town, I reflect that they might see me there again and follow me to a quiet corner.  Yeah, I’m a fairly big fella, but, like with the sick bastards on the tube, I can’t see any retribution coming and I can’t point them out afterwards.  I’m an easy target.  Ok, it doesn’t compare to being physically abused on a train, but the psychological trauma of potential abuse is there.  


As shocking as abuse of disabled people is, the thing that surprises me more is that Joe or Jo Public are massively apathetic.  Very rarely do by-standars do anything but gawp (is that a word known outside Yorkshire?).  Ah, but then again….  Let me tell you two occasions whereby-standards have been rather vocal in defence of someone involved in an altercation  .


Back to the woman who wasn’t looking forward to being groped.  On a previous day, she stood up to get off and was picking up her rucksack to put on when someone grabbed it.  Now, if someone grabs your bag, you can be forgiven for thinking that they are trying to nick it, especially if your experience on the underground is far from positive.  She snatched it back only to be given a verbal earbashing.  The man was just trying to help her put it on.  Of course, she tried to explain that she had no way of knowing what his intention was.  It was at this point that the by-standers valiantly came to the rescue… of the man.  They defended him and gave the blind woman abuse for not being more understanding.  The parting words from the man was to call her a bitch.  For the blind woman, he is now potentially looking for future retribution.


When this story was relayed on Twitter, most replies were sympathetic.  However, there was one that said that, “He would be scared to help a blind person in case he was rebuked”.  Scared?  Really.  A blind woman telling you off is scary?  I’ll tell you what is scary: Getting verbal abuse and threats by people you can’t see.


Alright, I can see that being rebuked could put you off offering assistance.  So, what’s the answer.  It’s simple.  There’s a Twitter hashtag that sums it up nicely: #AskDon’tGrab.  You just need to approach calmly and ask the person if they would like some help.  Sometimes we’ll say ‘yes’ and sometimes we’ll say ‘no’.  That’s called ‘free will’.  Oh, and I don’t mean that you should ask for permission to grab her arse either.



Click on the image to view the larger version.