When a man started yelling and hitting a young hijabi girl on the skytrain last Monday night, Jake Taylor didn’t hesitate to intervene.
“It was pretty autopilot,” he said Wednesday. “You see some smaller, younger person in danger, it was my initial reaction to help.”
The young woman who Taylor rushed to help is Noor Fadel, 18, from Richmond.
Tuesday morning, Fadel took to Facebook to share her story.
She had just boarded the train at Waterfront station when a man stood up and started yelling threats and insults. He said he was going to kill “all Muslims” and then “raised his hand” and said he was to kill her.
“I wanted to film him but I was afraid he was going to hit me. He was using horrific words as he was aggressively making actions when he tried to grab my head and shove it to his crotch.” she wrote on facebook.
As the other passengers watched passively, the man started hitting her.
“And everyone watched as he did so. Everyone stayed seated and did not utter a word, but one man. One guy, just like me on his way home from work, got up and pushed the guy away and stayed in front of me until the man got off at Vancouver City Centre.”
The good samaritan is 21 years old Jake Taylor: “Where I come from, helping people is an expected thing. Everybody needs to stand up for each other.” he said. He is from Nelson but currenlty lives and works in Vancouver.
Noor said it was only after Taylor’s intervention that she felt safe enough to snap some photos of the attacker. Taylor stayed with her as she disembarked at Yaletown station and remained with her until police arrived.
Police called paramedics to help her as she was “extremely traumatized and had trouble breathing,” Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan said in a statement Wednesday.
She said that after her facebook post she received messages of support from all over the world and that while she was initially shocked that so few people on the train seemed to care, she doesn’t feel alone anymore.
“You can’t really blame people for feeling cautious. They see so much in the media.” Adding “It’s a new day, I’m not going to waste my day feeling sorry for myself.”
“I just hope that everyone can look at this event and realize what’s going on in our city. I hope that this event can bring positive change.”
Wednesday afternoon, Transit Police announced they have arrested the attacker. His name is Pierre Belzan,
- Belzan has been charged with one count of assault and one count of threatening to cause death or bodily harm.
The photos Noor took were used by police to track Belzan using surveillance video.
“We would like to thank and commend the gentleman who intervened in this incident and came to the aid of the woman. He put his own safety at risk and stopped what might have become an even more serious situation,” Drennan said.
Psychology professor Michael Schmitt said research has shown that in situations like this, people are often hesitant to intervene not because they lack goodwill, but because they’re unsure of what the situation actually is and aren’t sure whose responsibility it is to intervene. They also fear for their own safety.
There’s no doubt, though, that when more people move to intervene, even by raising their voices in opposition to the attacker, “it sends a message to the whole community about what we find unacceptable. It changes people’s behaviour and it changes people’s attitudes and there is good psychological evidence for that.”
“When we intervene it sends a message to the perpetrator and the victim that she matters.”