Jake Taylor was the only person who stepped forward to help Noor Fadel when the teenager was assaulted by a man on a crowded Skytrain in Vancouver on Dec. 4. Taylor, who is in his twenties, grew up in Nelson and graduated from L.V. Rogers Secondary.
“The man stood in front of me with this really aggressive look in his face,” Fadel told the Star in a phone interview on Friday, “and he was yelling at me, full-on yelling, in Arabic, but strange. I speak Arabic but it was an accent I am not familiar with.”
He was calling her a whore and a slut and telling her he was going to kill her and all Muslims. Fadel is an 18-year- old Muslim who wears a hijab and was born in Canada.
The man, whom she described as white, kept telling her to go back to her country.
“I was shocked, I was like, whoa where did this come from, and I looked at the passengers to see if anyone was aware. He kept using profanity toward me, then he grabbed my head and tried to force it onto his crotch.”
She said the other passengers, who up to this point could not understand what was going on because the man was not speaking English, now seemed to get uncomfortable because it was clear that there was physical violence. But no one did anything.
“He was huge, a very tall man, and I was telling myself, you need to cooperate Noor, don’t do anything to piss this guy off. I wanted to take a video of him but I was scared he would hit me.”
He did hit her. He slapped her hard across the face.
A young man on the train stood up, pushed the man away, and placed himself between Fadel and the attacker until the man got off at the next station.
That intervenor was Jake Taylor.
“I was crying and shaken up,” said Fadel, who said the man had hit her hard but he was wearing gloves so there is no broken skin or mark on her face.
“Everything happened so fast, I was dialing 911, and I was able to sneak a couple of shots of the man.”
Fadel later gave those photos to the police and posted them on Facebook. She said Taylor voluntarily got off the train with her.
“I was having an anxiety attack, I could not speak well, so Jake took the phone and he was talking to the police for me. We went upstairs to get fresh air and he stayed with me until paramedics and police arrived. He made small talk to relax me, helped me catch my breath.”
According to several Vancouver media outlets, police later arrested Pierre Belzan of no fixed address, charged him with uttering threats and with assault, and are recommending a charge of sexual assault.
Fadel told the Star she has never experienced that kind of support from someone she has never met. But she is used to people telling her to go back to her country and calling her a terrorist. She said in the previous two weeks she had had multiple incidents of that, on transit, online, and at her retail job.
“I do my best not to let that negativity get to me and I do my best to stay strong and not let them impact me.”
Fadel said that even though they just met, she and Taylor are now friends.
“He contacted me on Facebook and we are going to be friends through this, and he met my brothers and sisters. They adore him. He has met some of my friends. I wanted to get his name out there because I want people to know that this guy was just an ordinary guy who risked his life.”
She is not judgmental about the people who did not intervene.
“I wasn’t really wondering why no one was helping me. It was more of shock and a panic for at least someone to get up and do something. My thoughts are really just thoughts. I can’t go accusing them or asking them why they didn’t move. It’s not an easy decision. The guy could have been carrying a weapon for all they know.
“Rather, move forward and bring awareness and make people understand what can be done next time if one ever witnesses this. We should be educated on such matters. Everyone should.”
Fadel says she is still shaken by the incident.
“I have bad, bad anxiety, I get panicky. I know this will get better in time. I have my family supporting me and I have my friends, but it is not easy. I just want to be vulnerable and emotional right now, I just want to be not OK for a little bit of time, to heal myself faster.”
As much as she wants the world to be perfect, she said, there will always be people who will judge by appearance. She said she has always thought there is good in everyone. But that perception has become a bit more complicated since the incident.
“I have to also admit to myself that there is some bad in everyone and everyone is not perfect. I really wish the guy would have known who I really am. I am human. We are all human in the end.”
At the end of her interview with the Star, Fadel asked to make one final comment.
“Be sure to tell them Jake is a star.”
Jake Taylor was not available to be interviewed for this story.