In Istanbul it seems quite a common phenomena to be violated almost to the point of molestation on the metrobus. Many a woman will be able to recount more than one occasion when opportistic men, taking advantage of the cover afforded through an over crowded bus, grab a hold, cop a feel, rub their crotch etc, on unsuspecting victims. I have experienced this first hand and am able to comment on the disgust, repulsion and slight sense of self loathing that comes with being treated in such a way. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon thing, people are aware this goes on.
Although, I have to say, as a woman I generally feel as safe in Istanbul as I do anywhere. I have walked home alone late and it has not been a problem. I am now just a little more vigilant on public transport (or as vigilant as I can be). I have been told a swift elbow often helps.
I have had instances when I have had to do a double take. To think twice. Is that mans crotch in my face because the bus is crowded? Or is he just a massive pervert? Honestly these things happen too often for it to be the former. Horrific as it is to have a man get his jollies from a mere hint at genital contact with unsuspecting body part, many women, myself included, go through this without uttering a word. Shock, repulsion and sheer intimidation can often render one speechless. It’s more than a little bit scary.
One particular incident on a late night metrobus was quite unnerving. Said metrobus was as full as its rush hour counterpart in the wee hours of the morning one Friday ago. Looking around I noticed that there were no other women on the bus. This was enough to make me feel a tad nervous.
A few stops in and I actually managed to get a seat (hurrah), utilising this most precious of luxuries to get some shut eye on the long, monotonous journey home.
Rudely awakened by a hand on my shoulder I dismissed it as an accident, the bus being so full and all. I shifted to move it and proceeded to try and catch back up with the sleep that was snatched away from me. Again, the hand on my shoulder. This time it was not removed no matter how hard I tried to move away from it. The offender, a young male in his twenties (I think), said something to me in Turkish, I assumed it was an apology, I said Tamam and thought that was was the end of it.
Until I felt him stroking my back with his body all too closely pushed up against me. By this point the bus was not full enough for this to be an excuse. Now, I should have moved, I know, but I froze. The guy was part of a larger group of males. On a bus full of Turkish men, I just closed my eyes hoping he would get of the bus soon.
The journey went on, his hand on my back, me squirming away from it as much as I could. As we got closer and closer to our stop I began to feel alarmed. What if he were to get off at my stop?
Two stops before mine, to my relief, he went to get off the bus. Not before he whispered in my ear, ‘teşekkürler’ (thank you). To which I replied ‘fuck off’, the phrase needing no translation, my face said it all. I felt sick. Did he get off on that? Really?
I don’t even want to know the answer to that…