Globe and Mail

Catcalls drove woman to assault teen, she says

Accused had enough of men's harassment, latuyer argues, calling her move self-defence

GAY ABBATE
The Globe and Mail, Toronto
Thursday, July 8, 1999

A Toronto woman charged with assault for kicking a teen in the groin after having had enough of his catcalls and taunts had every right to defend herself, says a lawyer who deals with assault victims.

"It was dark, and it was late. Having a bunch of males making comments about my appearance, I'd be frightened too," said Pamela Cross, co-ordinator of the Ontario Women's Justice Network. "What she did was a move of self-defence.

Corinne Branigan, 118 pounds and 5 foot 5, said she was more angry than afraid on Monday night when she confronted a group of seven male teenagers who she said harassed her on the street earlier in the evening.

The incident began about 8:30 p.m. On her way to do her laundry, she crossed paths with the teens, who allegedly shouted profanities at her when she refused to speak with them. She ignored them and went to the laundromat.

When she returned, instead of going into the Wright Avenue apartment in the quiet residential neighbourhood she had moved to the day before, she decided to talk to them. "I went there to tell them to never yell anything to me again," she replied when asked why she would approach them alone in a school yard when it was already dark.

She said the teens went ballistic when she ordered them to leave her alone. "They called me stupid," and that and other comments left her feeling threatened, she said.

That's when the 30-year-old woman attacked Jason Batisse, 18, who is about 5 foot 9. First, she hit him in the face with her hand, scratching him with a ring. She said his nose was marked, but did not bleed.

They tussled, and she finally kicked him in the groin with her flip-flop shoes. Ms. Branigan, who said she is not athletic, said she didn't think his injuries were serious.

Police said the teen was treated in hospital for a swollen nose, scratches to the face and soreness to the groin and stomach area.

It was after the kick -- she said she never intended to hit him in the groin -- that he broke a bottle and came after her, she said. Friends calmed him down, and he left the yard of Fern Public School.

Ms. Branigan said it was only after Mr. Batisse came after her with the broken liquor bottle that she became afraid. "It scared the living out of me," she said last night as she sat near the spot where the confrontation took place.

The teenager returned later with his mother, who asked a couple sitting on their porch to call police. The couple, who did not want their names used, said they heard a lot of profanities from the teen toward Ms. Branigan while they waited for police.

Samantha Kilby-Lechman, 12, who lives near the school, said she saw someone smash a bottle and heard Ms. Branigan say: "What are you going to do, slit me open?" Neighbours said the four police officers who arrived tried without success to persuade Mr. Batisse not to press charges. Ms. Branigan said hitting the teen was not the right thing to do, "but it was the human thing to do.

It was not the first such incident for the pretty 30-year-old. Just three nights before, she said, she had been harassed by four men, one with a beer bottle, while walking on Lansdowne Avenue. She said she moved from her Dunn Street apartment because of constant harassment from men in the area.

"I'd do anything to be able to walk down the street in peace. I've been harassed all my life. I don't know why," she said.

Copyright © 1999 The Globe and Mail