There have been plenty of stories about women feeling threatened by harassment on the streets of Jakarta as well as from motorcycle taxi drivers (ojeks). Last week, a woman in North Jakarta felt so threatened by the actions of her ojek driver that she jumped off his bike while it was moving, sustaining injuries in the process, after which the driver fled the scene.
But after reporting the driver to the authorities, police say it was all just a misunderstanding.
“It was just a joke, his goal was just to break the ice,” said Pademangan Criminal Detective Head Suharto on Friday as quoted by Kompas.
The incident, which took place on Thursday, was reported to police by the passenger, 21-year-old Dini Nurharyati. According to her report, Dini ordered and was picked up by an online ojek driver, identified by police as Irfan Arifasandi, at around 9pm to take her from Ampera to Pademangan.
According to Dini’s account, the driver did not take the usual route to her destination, instead bring her to a dark and deserted area around Jalan Karang Bolong Ancol.
On the way there, Dini felt threatened after Irfan said, “You are beautiful”.
Dini became so desperate to get away from him that she jumped from the motorcycle, suffering injuries to her face, chin and arms when she hit the asphalt.
Instead of stopping to help her, Irfan drove away. Fortunately, other passersby came by and helped her soon after.
After investigating Dini’s report and interviewing Irfan, police seem to believe the driver did nothing wrong.
Detective Suharto said that the reason Irfan took the route he did was because he was following the directions given by his mobile phone’s GPS. The detective also reiterated that the driver calling Dini beautiful was just a form of teasing and not meant to be harassment.
He did not offer any explanation or justification for Irfan fleeing the scene after Dini jumped.
Suharto said that they had brought Dini and Irfan together to make peace but the process was still ongoing.
Of course, only a telepath could truly know what the driver’s intentions were that night, but we do know that the passenger felt so threatened that she was willing to risk serious injury to herself to get away.
Even if the police do not believe that the driver broke any laws, they still could have, at the very least, denounced his words and used the incident as an opportunity to educate ojek drivers, and the general public, that strangers saying things like “You’re beautiful” can make women feel harassed and even terrified, no matter the intent behind them.
In excusing this driver’s actions, they have given others tacit approval to similarly harass women, knowing that if they ever get in trouble they can simply say, “Oh, I was just joking.”