It was the evening of the day the Stanford rape victims statement went viral. I was on my way home, passing through Alexanderplatz to change trains. At the entrance of the station lay a woman in her late twenties like a big, dead letter X.
Alexanderplatz is like the Times Square of New York City, Taksim Square of Istanbul, Dam Square of Amsterdam. Highly touristic, unavoidable for locals, either due to transportation needs or simply as a guilty pleasure. Then how was this woman on the floor, all alone, and nobody seemed to be interested in helping her?
Cities like Berlin have their own filters their people see and live life through. The more central the place is, the less they feel the pain. The cement of TV towers replace the flesh and blood of our hearts where it would hurt like hell otherwise. But the cement is not strong enough to make these places heaven-like either. I looked around and saw, felt in purgatory that evening at Alexanderplatz.
I; a “bad foreigner”, my friend; a newcomer, we tried to speak with the woman who lay on the floor but at first she wouldn’t answer. Few moments later three German speaking men walked into the station and turned the situation into a conversation. As one of them called the ambulance, a man came to us acting very agressively and looking very pissed. He pushed us all and told us to fuck off. She told us he was her boyfriend but that we must stay. She showed us her hands, bruised. She said it hurt, pointing at her heart. She was obviously drunk, and now speaking in English. I guess because she saw we were still there, actually listening and she wanted to be heard. The man yelled at her too, in German, and left the scene for a while. The woman asked us to check her bag for her phone and wallet. They weren’t there. The angry man came back, and said he had them. She told him to fuck off. Eventually the ambulance came and took her. We told her everything is going to be fine and went on our ways.
On the train back home I couldn’t help but wonder, would I have stopped and stayed with her until the ambulance came if it wasn’t the evening of the Stanford storm on my News Feed and in my head? Would he hurt her even more if we did not stop there? Or was he going to apologize, take her home and wake up as a new man, having learned from his mistakes, sworn never to hurt her again? How do we know when to take action and when to let people be?
Would the Orlando victims still be alive if the killer was arrested and treated years ago, when he abused his first wife for the first time? I saw his father in a video. “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality – this is not for the servants’ of God” he said. I read the letter the Stanford rapists mother wrote to the judge. “Why him?” she repeatedly asked. I saw people watching the woman and the man from afar in Alexanderplatz. I watched the man get away with what he did because I was too shocked to call the police.
I watched hundreds of men get away with hate speech, hate crimes, rape, harrasment and violence in my short life. I still do not know where it starts and ends, but we need to start standing up for each other when we are there. We need to explain the Orlando killers father WHY homosexuality is not a crime, we need to show Standord rapist Brock’s mother WHY him, we need to remind ourselves why and how everybody is worthy of a few minutes of our attention if they look like they need help, even if they are drunk, and passed out in the middle of the city, looking like that’s what they do all the time or that someone else would eventually help them out.
Maybe it starts with looking into each others eyes.
Nazli Koca is a writer and dreamer based in Berlin. It’s very likely that you will run into her while she is writing in the train or reading at Spoken Word events around Rathaus Neukölln. If you live in a city far far away, you can read more of her stuff at rhnk.tumblr.com