Wrapped in a headscarf’s colorful and silky folds, she finds comfort in her modesty. For her, the wrap is a constant reminder that God is with her all the time. It makes her feel secure, she said, even when Triceten Bickford’s hands were wrapped around her neck.
On Saturday evening, the Bloomington resident was drinking tea outside of Sofra Café. Her nine-year-old daughter sat on her left.
Bickford had been drinking something much stronger. The 19-year-old IU student was drunkenly stumbling towards the Chocolate Moose when he caught sight of the woman’s light blue scarf. Abruptly, he changed directions.
As he neared the café, walking on the other side of the street, he began to yell.
The woman, who is, in fact, Caucasian, is an immigrant from Turkey. She said she paid the man no mind until seconds later when his hands gripped her throat from behind and pushed her face into the cold wire table.
Terrified but filled with adrenaline, she pulled the hands away from her windpipe, permitting the crisp October air to once again fill her lungs. Her husband was inside the café. In an effort to get his attention, she pushed all her weight against the man whose arms still fought to choke her.
In an unexpected feat of strength, the 47-year-old woman reared back and stood so she could be seen through the café’s window.
Even before her husband could react, though, she felt Bickford being pulled off her back.
“What are you, stupid?” she heard a new voice say.
Turning, she saw another stranger, Daniel Boyes, lying on the sidewalk. The 21-year-old IU junior was restraining her thrashing attacker.
Boyes had been walking down Walnut Street on the way to a friend’s dance performance. He had never been in a fight in his life, but when he saw Bickford approach the woman, he didn’t hesitate to act.
“I never would have imagined doing that,” Boyes said. “It was surreal that I was doing that to somebody.”
The woman’s husband rushed out of the door. He turned red with rage as he helped Boyes hold Bickford down.
“I’m going to kill you all,” the woman remembers Bickford, who was later identified as a sophomore psychology major, shouting. Flailing on the sidewalk, he kicked the air and spat in her husband’s face.
The other diners had exited the restaurant to survey the scene. As the woman rushed to call 911, one of these men put his foot down on Bickford’s shoulder saying, “Shut up and stay there.”
Another diner shakily apologized to the victim. We’re not all like that, she assured her.
When the cops arrived, Bickford bit one officer’s calf and tried to kick out the windows of the police car.
Through all of the commotion, the nine-year-old girl clung to the restaurant’s railing, shivering and crying.
“I couldn’t help you, mommy,” she cried again and again. “I couldn’t help you.”
That was three days ago.
Since then, Bickford has been arrested and released. After being charged with minor possession and consumption of alcohol, intimidation, public intoxication, strangulation and three counts of battery, he paid $705 and walked out of the Monroe County Jail on Oct. 18.
The woman’s young daughter hasn’t been able to fall asleep before three o’clock in the morning. On Monday she stayed home from school, afraid the man might find her again.
The woman has that fear too. As TV cameras and journalists flood into the restaurant, she requests that her identity and profession be kept private for security concerns.
Reporters aren’t the only people at the scene of the crime. A steady stream of friends and strangers file through the café Monday to munch on baklava and gyros, hug the woman and show her that this act of aggression doesn’t represent Bloomington.
Anna Alexandrova-Beauchamp, a friend of the victim’s, posted her lunch plans on Facebook, encouraging others to dine at the Turkish café in a demonstration of support. “This behavior is unacceptable and is not what Bloomington stands for,” she wrote.
Glorianne Leck and Susan Savastuk are a lesbian couple who came to eat and show solidarity. They know the victim from patronizing her business in town. They also know what it feels like to be marginalized. Each time they enter a new business, they worry about being discriminated against. The first time they entered the victim’s business, they said, they immediately found that those fears were unfounded. The small and lively woman is open to all types of people. Friends describe her as motherly.
“She is so sweet,” Savastuk said. “She opened up her friendship to me. Even though I am different, she wanted to know me and my family, and she appreciated my spouse.”
A pregnant black woman, an elderly white man, a young student and several women wearing headscarves of their own line up in front of the counter. One mother, who also has a nine-year-old, brought flowers.
The victim smiles at them all, her bright eyes lined with laughter creases. She thanks them for coming and assures them she’ll be alright.
“I’m okay,” she told a crying friend, holding the young woman’s face in her hands. “You are so wonderful.”
Even after the events of this weekend, the mood in the café is upbeat. The woman herself is the first to admit that she becomes strong in the face of adversity.
Bickford’s attack was not the first time she’s experienced discrimination. On a snowy day last winter, she was in her place of work when a man came in holding up his phone.
The phone’s flash was on as if the man was taking a video. He looked into the woman’s face, took one finger, and made a slashing motion across his throat.
“I’m going to kill you,” she remembers him saying as he took a step forward.
She raised her chin and took a step forward of her own.
“I’m not afraid of you,” she replied.
The man turned and ran.
“When something happens, I am so strong, then I collapse later,” she said. “You don’t feel the fear at that moment.”
The woman has five children, all of whom were born in the United States. The family came to Bloomington more than a decade ago when her husband began his Ph.D. studies at IU.
She said she wants her children to know that Bloomington is still a safe place. That not everybody is like that.
Bickford is scheduled to have an initial hearing on Friday.
The woman said when she thinks of him, she feels bad for his mother.
“I’ve tried to teach my kids to be very good people,” she said. “I’m sure she wanted her son to be a very good person. I’m not going to think she raised him like that.”
The woman said she doesn’t hate Bickford, but she hates what he did. She said she’s going to pray for him. Pray that he realizes what he did was wrong.
Reflecting on the incident, she said she knows she could have died, and she’s happy God allowed her to live. A large group of friends echo the sentiment, as evidenced by the never-ending stream of phone calls and well-wishers.
As the lunch hour comes to a peak in the café, another stranger enters carrying a small box and a card.
When the woman pulls the gift from the box, a lightweight scarf tumbles from her fingers. Dainty pink, yellow and blue flowers are stitched in a wreath around the scarf’s white center.
“Dear Bloomingtonian,” the card reads. “Enclosed is a scarf given to me by my mother. Now I am giving it to you. May you always feel surrounded by love.”
The woman’s eyes well as she proudly hangs the gift on the restaurant’s wall.
Once again, a headscarf has made her feel comforted and secure. When she wears it, she’ll have a constant reminder that God isn’t the only one there to love and protect her.
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For Bourgeois, storytelling goes beyond a written narrative.
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