January 16, 2010 2: 30 a.m.
Walking down Cornmarket street in the heart of Oxford I stopped because I heard a guy shouting at a young woman, “Fuck you! You fucking bastard!” He cornered her in the entrance of Pret A Manger and when she tried to leave he hit her. In the face. Once, -twice and many times more.
I did not wait for him to stop before I turned to my friend who instinctively approached the guy but I held her back as we are two females alone. Instead, I stopped a couple who walked by and asked whether they had seen the police, at this time of night there are many of them around the town center. The helpful young man ran off and returned with two security people.
All three men walked at a leisurely pace towards the victim and perpetrator. They were clearly at loss for what to do. One of them approached the couple and asked, “Is everything alright?” The victim was now on the floor, in the corner of the entrance to the store. The man in front of her. The security person, only upon our insistence that things are not all right, called the police.
Meanwhile both my friend and I walked off to find police officers. I stopped a police car at the corner of Cornmarket and St. George Street and old the female officer that I saw a man beating up a woman. They drove the 50 meters to the incident. They did not even get out of the car, but the perpetrator came to the police car window and they talked. They drove off almost immediately.
My friend and I were still standing at the corner when we saw the guy running towards us, and we ran.
When I turned around to check whether he was still following us, we see him with the girl again. She was screaming and walking along St. George with him screaming back at her. My friend and I ran to the next police couple (always man and woman) at the corner of St. George and New Inn Hall Street. Again, I briefly told them what is up. Their response is something along these lines: Well, we know. Somebody’s already checked and things are ok.
Upon our insistence that things are not ok and he is abusing her about 80 meters up the street, the male police officer turns to us and says: So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t it just a bit of spanking?
We all walked back and saw her cornered into another entrance of yet another store. She did not attempt to fight back, she received her lot. This is clearly not the first time that she has been abused nor will it be the last time – and the police did their part to ensure this won’t be the last time…
What remains of the situation is an utter disbelief at the response of the law enforcement in this country. Is domestic violence here so pervasive that a public display of it is not of interest to four different police officers, two men and two women? Is both the security personnel and the police so badly trained that they don’t know how to interfere in this situation than to speak exclusively with the perpetrator and at best with the victim in his immediate and physical presence?
We literally had to convince all of those who were supposed to provide help and security that a crying woman in the corner is not ok. I feel helpless, angry and frustrated beyond belief that the physical and emotional abuse of this young woman tonight was not prevented despite our best efforts. Who would have thought that the police we turned to did not even perceive hitting of women on the street as an offense???
All this is happening not in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia or other such “misogynistic” countries but right here under our very nose in Oxford, England, in 2011. What remains for me to do other than share this event with you?
Location: Oxford, UK