Train Creeps (and Family Violence)

I’d guess that most people in B.C. have traveled on the SkyTrain in the Lower Mainland.

I love it.  I can get downtown from my home in New Westminster faster than driving and it gives me time to catch up on overdue texts and emails with friends.

But, there is also something a little lawless about it, isn’t there?

If you have taken the train in the wee hours of the night, you’ll know what I mean…

It’s not uncommon to see someone drinking, vomiting, or causing a scene.    And, for that reason, I am very thankful and appreciative for the Transit Police.   They truly have a hard job, keeping the train safe for the rest of us.

But, sometimes, Transit Police are not always there to help…  So, what happens then?  What should you do?  What can you do?

Here’s my story…

On October 31 this last year, two buddies came to visit me for the Halloween weekend.  It was a Saturday and we decided to go for a jog on the seawall in Vancouver.   So, we packed up our jogging gear and boarded the SkyTrain.

Once on the train, we noticed a fellow in his 20s talking on his cell phone, sitting near where we were standing.  Everyone within 25 feet could hear this fellow’s every word.   He was describing his prior night, telling his friend (and everyone else) about how much alcohol he drank and about his most recent sexual conquest.   It was wildly inappropriately (and I won’t reproduce what he said here).

A few moments later, a young woman stepped onto the train and stood near my friends and I.   Without skipping a beat, the fellow approached and unleashed his own brand of ‘courtship’.  She informed him that she had a boyfriend, but he persisted nonetheless.   It was uncomfortable (to the say the least) for everyone within close proximity.

My friends and I looked at each other.  We had to something, right?  But, what could we do?  Engaging with the fellow would have surely invited conflict.

So, seeing a break in the conversation between the young fellow and woman, we began a conversation with the woman.  With her attention focused on us, the young fellow returned to his seat and left the train shortly thereafter.  And, when exiting the train, the young woman thanked us.   As well, a collective sigh of relief was felt on the train.   Things could have got been a lot different – it could have been violent for myself and my friends. But, even more important, things could have been violent for the young woman!

Imagine that she accepted a date with him.  And, that she started a relationship with him.  Or, imagine that she had a child with him.   It isn’t that far-fetched: love can be blind, after all…

In my family law practice, I’ve seen a lot of people (often women) victimized in abusive relationships.  It is awful to see.  Some women physically tremble with fear.

In such cases, there is plenty of legal advice to give.  Among other things, I’ll generally recommend journaling/documenting the abuse, contacting support groups and emergency services (such as women’s shelters), and creating a safety plan.  In addition, the violence should be reported to police.

Here’s why…

When I am hired by someone who is being abused, one of the first things I’ll immediately consider is getting a protection order against the abuser.

To explain, a protection order is a court order that prevents any direct or indirect contact (i.e. messages being passed through third parties) between the abuser and the victim.  For more information, I discussed protection orders at length in a prior column:  Afraid of a family member?

A helpful fact in helping my client get a protection order is the presence of prior police files relating to the abuse.

Think about it: just like sick people are expected to go to a doctor for medical treatment, victims of abuse are often expected (often unfairly) to go to police for help.   Also, if the victim has a child, it is even MORE important that the victim remove himself/herself (and the child) from that abusive situation (and call police).

Now, with that said, if a victim of abuse has not reported the abuse to police, it will not necessarily be fatal to the victim’s application for a protection order.  But, the presence of prior reportings often helps the victim’s cause.

Please know, too, that it’s absolutely appreciated that reporting abuse to police can be incredibly difficult.   But, please remember this: if you happen to be in an abusive relationship, you do not need to suffer in silence.    There are people who want to help you.

**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought. 

Column originally posted on Castanet.net on June 10, 2015 at: Train creeps!

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