Female safety on the Camino under the spotlight again

The issue of solo women’s safety on the Camino came under the spotlight again, following an incident where a female pilgrim abandoned her Camino two weeks in after an encounter with a masturbating man on the trail.
The pilgrim* posted on the a Camino Facebook group that she was walking to *Astorga and encountered a man hiding his face behind a tree while starting to masturbate when she walked by.
The incident took place just after she crossed the road of La Casa de los Dioses (David’s place).
She was alone and scared and reported that she does not feel safe on the trail, thus booking her flight ticket home and abandoning her Camino after only two weeks of walking. “I feel foolish for thinking I could do this alone, but also very angry that the world is like this,” she said.
She reported speaking to the police and says they told her the only thing they could do was to go up there and look, but nothing more.

AlertCops app

The Spanish police’s AlertCops app (Android and Iphone) has been recommended for female pilgrims specifically. It is a quick and easy way of alerting the emergency services of a problem or incident and helps them find a location easily.

“If you are a victim or witness of a risk situation, you may contact through the chat or send us photos and videos. You will get immediate attention from the Law Enforcement Agencies,” explains the website. Your position is sent when you communicate an alert.
Some US pilgrims have reported problems getting their phone numbers validated as part of the App installment process, but for most it works well.
Failing that the emergency phone number in Spain is 112.

Spanish police

The Spanish police take a special interest in crimes involving pilgrims, because of the Camino’s historic importance and the country’s economic interests.

The Guardia Civil assists and checks on pilgrims, monitors pedestrian routes, busy road crossings, investigates crimes involving pilgrims and patrols the route. They even have their own seal that can be stamped in pilgrim’s credentials as they pass through certain towns on the Camino with a Civil guard barracks or at Mobile Pilgrim Assistance Offices.

Other incidents

The route is widely regarded as safe, even for solo female walkers. Unfortunately incidents like this affecting female pilgrims do crop up from time to time and along various places on the different routes. In the past two weeks three separate incidents affecting female safety on the Camino Portuguese route were also reported by female pilgrims.

*Astorga is unfortunately known as the area where US pilgrim Denise Pikka Thiem was killed in 2015 when she was lured off the trail with fake arrows. Her killer was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2017. It was a rare and shocking incident.

Edit: the pilgrim’s name has been removed due to privacy concerns.

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