Cho Carol (Business Administration, 1) was butt-slapped when she was taking subway line two coming to school alone. On another day, an unknown man inappropriately touched her chest and face.
“After experiencing it firsthand, I could understand why some girls can’t escape,” Cho said.
“It is because they are too scared. When it’s happening, you are like a deer caught in the headlights. You can’t think straight until the car hits you, or in this case, the man. A fight or flight response doesn’t kick in.”
Cho is not alone. In the first six months of this year, the Seoul Metropolitan Police made 546 arrests for sexual assault on the subway, compared to 671 for all of 2009, according to a report released on Aug. 12.
Korean Womenlink (www.womenlink.or.kr) defines sexual assault as one form of sexual violence.
Such forms include actions against the victim’s will that give displeasure. Examples include touching a woman’s buttocks, chest or thighs, raising her clothes and stalking her after she leaves the subway. Sexual assault can also be directed at men.
Sexual assaults are most often occuring on subway line two, followed by lines one and four, according to the police report. Most assaults take place during the commuting hours of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., when the subways are most crowded.
Though there is no way to completely prevent the crime, there are ways to minimize the chances of it occurring.
“Girls should not blame themselves because it doesn’t happen by their own will,” said Kho Kyung-hee, a counselor at the Center for Gender Affairs at Ewha. “The offenders are the ones with a problem.”
Kho said if a sexual assault takes place, the victim should not feel powerless but be confident that there are ways to handle the situation. She suggests the following methods:
On a crowded subway
- Trust your instincts. If you feel that somebody is getting closer on purpose, change places or put your bag between the offender and easily attacked areas such as hips and chest.
On non-crowded subway
- If a person next to you suddenly hides himself with clothes or a newspaper, he might be looking for a chance to touch you. Change your position or angle showing your flat refusal.
- Be aware of someone who is drunk or asleep. He might touch you and pretend it was a mistake. This kind of person usually touches, leans on you and rubs his body against you. Try to avoid sitting next to such a person, or leave the seat immediately if he acts inppropriately.
If a student faces unexpected harm, she should show initiative for solution. Once she’s confident that it is a sexual assault and she feels sexual shame with light touches, she should react offensively right away.
“Don’t be timid but rather be confident for asking help to nearby people. The molester are same as the criminals,” Kho said.
Calling the police is also one of the most effective ways to solve the problem. With the convenience of cell phones, students can report crimes right away by sending a message to police (at 02-112), including information about what subway you are on and a simple description of the offender. Students can also report the crime to the subway constabulary (02-338-4412) or the police force working at the station.
“This should be a country where women know they can walk alone without the fear of being attacked,” Cho said.