I attended a Cross Cultural Communications workshop here in Malaysia. Some things I already knew. Also learned some new things.
But one of my questions was, “Why don’t people get involved if they see someone in trouble?”
When someone’s car is broken down on the side of the road. Or being harassed by men. Robbed. Or any number of things. Of course, my question stems from me hearing so many stories about people like me (foreigners living here) being in some sort of trouble and no one assisting them.
To be fair, Kuala Lumpur is a big and crowded city filled with all sorts of folks. Good and bad. Like anywhere else.
And I really do love living here.
Rory, twenty years old, was at a New Year’s party with her dad here in KL. She left the party to meet with her friends in the park behind the building where they had dinner. She wanted to see the firework display with her chums. One of the last opportunities before she left Malaysia.
The crowds were tremendous and as she fought her way through she was groped, pawed, and grabbed. Groups of young Indian and Malay men felt that they had some sort of right to touch my daughter as she walked past them. They squeezed her breasts from behind and they touched her backside.
I cannot tell you how upset I was when she told me a week later. After I returned from the States! My eyes filled. And I was fuming. WHO thinks they can touch a young girl in this way?
Rory had called her Dad crying while he was still at the dinner party but then she told him she was just sad to say goodbye to her friends. He then went to meet her and they rode home together. But he had no idea. He had even called me in the U.S. and told me she was upset about leaving her friends.
I told him what had happened.
And he was furious. He said he’d have been down there in a second taking some people down. I have no doubt that had he been told immediately there would have been more than one person in the hospital for the new year.
My question to her (and to all) is this. Where were all the other people watching this? Who witnesses this sort of behavior and says nothing? And why?
I know my husband would have acted if he had seen a young girl (or anyone) being harassed. Wherever he was.
She should have told her father right away. It would have been good for her to get his immediate emotional support. Especially since I was in a different country at the time. This was not her fault in any way, shape or form. It was and will always be the fault of the one who has no respect for a woman.
Rory told me that during all of her travels she had never once felt vulnerable. Until that night. That broke my heart. We can say (until the cows come home) don’t wear this, don’t go there, don’t go out at night, and other warnings. And we would be wrong. Sure, maybe we would be right, as a parent, doing our best to protect our kids. But we would be wrong. Because not one of those things should matter.
I do understand that there is a little repression in some religious and cultural communities that does not help matters. I can see that.
But back to my question. If it was happening why did no one step in? And tell them to knock it off? To leave the girl alone? That is what I don’t understand.
I was thankful it wasn’t worse for her. I was also proud that she turned around and told more than one of the guys (in some salty language) that he better not dare to touch her.
I am sharing this with you because the day we stop talking about this sort of harassment of young women (whether in a park or a workplace) is the day that we allow it to continue. And that is where the shame will lie.
And if something like this is witnessed? It needs to be addressed and stopped. Immediately. Period.
Global respect and responsibility. That should be universal.