During a weekend of speaking and conferencing in London, Dean (CVM Managing Director) and I were heading back on the Northern Line to our hotel, when Dean spotted a woman being forced aggressively against a wall by a man. Our train was in the station with the doors open. It looked like it was going to get nasty and as Dean got out of his seat I saw the woman try to slap the man in the face to get him away. He was so close to her and so forceful that she couldn’t get get her hands free properly. She looked terrified. Not good.
Ironic in the extreme was the fact that we had just finished a men’s day where we had been highlighting the excellent work being done by Restored (a global coalition to provide a Christian response to violence against women). Peter Grant, one of the co-directors had encouraged the men present to take a stand where necessary against violent men and not stand idly by.
Seconds later we were confronting him. Shielding the woman we firmly asked him to move away. At the same time, a platform announcement was made to the man, asking him to “stop harassing the lady.” However, this guy wasn’t up for stopping. Turning to me and getting right into my face he told me “@$£% Off” and asked me what I intended to do about it. Aggressive and threatening is an understatement.
I think you have a choice in these moments; It was central London and it was late. You have no idea whats going to happen next. It all happens quickly. You have questions to process instantly. Did he have a knife? Was he going to go on the offensive? Its essentially a two choice scenario. You either stand your ground or you step back. We moved forward and told him firmly, several times whilst locking his gaze to “step back”.
Eventually he did and after a few minutes of standing guard, assistance came and he was led away.
At one point I had turned to the other men on the train and asked if a few others would join us. I had the thought that if a handful of guys were gathered around, it would pressure him to back down. No one moved. No surprise there.
When I developed “The Code” one of the statements (Code X) ended up being, “I will use my strength to protect the weak and stand against the abuse of power.” In that moment she was in a very weak position and he was the abuser of power. You can’t sit back.
The lady actually told us, with tears running down her cheeks that she would be ok. There was a look on her face that somehow told me she had been there before with this guy. I didn’t move untill assistance arrived.
I’m grateful that the train driver refused to move the train until he knew she was ok. I’m grateful for the announcer. I’m grateful it didn’t get violent when we stepped in. It was strengthening to be with Dean, another man of conviction, both of us standing shoulder to shoulder. It was disappointing to see all those men refusing to move or burying their heads in their newspapers or books, pretending that nothing was happening.
I pray the lady was ok. I hope she leaves that man. I hope he had a wake up call. I pray that one day there will be a big enough groundswell so that these incidents become fewer. I hope that more men will be prepared to confront rather than shrink away.
When I read Luke 4:18 I dont see a passive call to justice. I see a call to stand in the gap when we need to and take a hit if necessary, even putting yourself in harms way if thats what’s required. That seems to me, to be a redeemed use of my strength.