In the aftermath of the abduction and murder of Andrea Bharatt, I have seen many entries on social media from women, about recent experiences in taxis (even official "H" ones) – drivers making unwanted advances, continuing to drive, accelerating and/or taking off-road detours, despite objection or questioning.
One would think that with increased national awareness around the topical issue, taxi drivers would be less inclined to indulge in abductions and rapes; but it is as if some men’s unhealthy appetites are stimulated by the publicity given to such nefarious activities by the media and public in general.
In a recent news report a woman with a knife at her disposal slashed a taxi driver across his face, when he took her off-route to the now infamous Aripo road. Thankfully, she escaped unhurt. One shudders at the thought of what could have happened had she not had a knife or the courage to use it.
One night many years ago, after leaving a Friday night after-work lime, a friend and I experienced a carjacking. While the car was at a standstill, a man opened my friend’s door, pulled her from the driver’s seat (her seatbelt was not yet on) and jumped in.
At the same time, another man opened my door and grabbed my bag roughly. As I grabbed it back from him and slammed the door, the driver sped off. I stretched my right foot across, trying to press the brake, while pummelling his face with my fists.
He shouted: “Get out, b--tch! Get out, b--tch!”
Without thinking of whether other cars were approaching or not, I opened the door and jumped from the speeding vehicle. Thankfully I landed well, sliding along the road, grazing off some skin on one shoulder and my upper back. Otherwise, I was unhurt. (For a while after, some of my friends called me "McGyver").
Looking back, I saw my friend way up the road, standing frozen in shock, watching the unfolding scene and the disappearing tail lights of her parents’ car.
Men liming at the roadside made no attempt to assist.
“De police station just up de road,” one of them said, casually.
Surprisingly unshaken, perhaps because of the need to act in the midst of crisis, I walked up the road, grabbed my shell-shocked friend and headed for the police station.
Within minutes of my report, a squad car in the area chased the car and intercepted it when it crashed into a wall. Several men jumped out, shooting at the police, before escaping over the wall.
My "leap of faith" had most likely saved my life.
A recent video circulating on social media shows a man advising viewers how to escape from a locked car trunk. Whenever that video pops up, my stomach churns with discomfort at the thought that we live in a nation where such a video tutorial is even necessary.
The widespread clamouring for legalisation of pepper spray makes it out to be the long-awaited saviour for vulnerable women. While it may help in some instances, there are numerous ways in which it can be detrimental to the potential "victim" or others.
How long will it take some women to grab spray that is lost in the proverbially bottomless pit of the average handbag? In a moment of panic, will the average woman stop to consider if she is up-wind or down-wind of activated spray? How easy is it for a strong attacker to overpower a potentially shaking victim and use the spray against her? How many curious children might discover and mistake Mummy’s pepper spray for a cosmetic product or toy?
My advice is (for those with mobile data and Facebook accounts) to begin a live broadcast before entering the vehicle. Tell the driver that this is what you are doing. If he objects, choose a taxi driver who (having nothing to hide and understanding your need to "go live") is comfortable with his face being shown and name and vehicle number being shared with viewers. Leave the broadcast running for the duration of your journey, until you reach your destination safely.
Not all women may be able to afford monthly mobile data. Bmobile and Digicel, (if you have not already thought of this) I suggest that you provide very low-cost "safety mobile data packages" for women and girls. Going "live" can save lives.