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I hesitated to share this story because I felt embarrassed – ashamed even – that I was sexually harassed twice in one week. I am the woman who was accosted by the naked man in a ski mask masturbating on Monday night on P street. I went to talk to a therapist on Thursday morning to try to get past that horrific event as soon as possible. We had a good session and planned a series of sessions starting next week for me to undergo EMDR: a non-invasive psycho-therapy that is often used to help dull unwanted recurrent images. This technique is considered an effective treatment for trauma by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs and is often used for veterans with PTSD.

I left the therapist’s office Thursday morning excited about the prospect of starting this treatment next week and started walking toward the Silver Spring metro to go to work. I was almost to the metro when a young male walked towards me and reached out, grabbed and squeezed my crotch. I felt so defeated that this could happen to me right after my therapy session, which I scheduled to get over what another man subjected me to on Monday night. Nevertheless, I was angry and spun around and yelled at the top of my lungs at him “What the #%&* are you doing? I’m calling 911 right now!” He responded “I’m so sorry, maam” as if that would make up for it. I dialed 911 and he started walking away slowly.

911 didn’t pick up right away but when they did, about 5 minutes later 3 police officers showed up and split up to go look for him. I told him he started walking down Colesville Road. They didn’t find him but filed a report under 2nd degree assault. I told them that if they found him I could identify him in a line up (he wasn’t wearing a ski mask like the other man) and that I would press charges.

I’m upset and shaken up for a number of reasons.
– I keep thinking why did this happen to me again? What am I doing wrong? What’s wrong with me?
– I questioned what I was wearing – jeans and a long sleeve shirt on Thursday and knee-length shorts and a tank top on Monday – and I thought what if I had worn a cardigan? What if I had worn a baggier jeans? Could I have avoided this then? Even though I know it shouldn’t matter what you’re wearing, nothing could ever justify this, I was saddened to see myself falling into this self-guilt line of thinking that I have heard about my whole life but never understood because I had never experienced anything like this. I understand now. I don’t know why it happens but I understand how women blame and question themselves.
– After the incident Monday night on the P st. bridge I promised myself I would pick up some pepper spray immediately but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I’m just so mad at myself. If I had had the pepper spray I could have defended myself on Thursday morning and I would have had full legal cause to due so since he assaulted me physically. Also, I could have handicapped him long enough for the police to get there. Yesterday, afternoon I went to the hardware store and bought pepper spray and a whistle.
– Also, what’s wrong with men? Why are they so aggressive? Seriously, you don’t see women pulling this stuff on the street. You don’t see women taking off their clothes and masturbating in public or grabbing other people’s genitals in public places. Obviously, not all men are like this, but it is largely a problem caused by men. I think we make excuses that it’s our culture’s fault, or that men just have a stronger sex drive than women, but that’s not sufficient. We need a larger more serious dialogue on what’s gone wrong with these men because something is terribly, horribly wrong.

Anyway, I’m posting this in the spirit of sharing the story. Hopefully that will have a healing effect that I’m not keeping it all inside and that it’s not anything to be ashamed of. I was proud of myself that I was stronger in Thursdays incident than I was on Monday. I found the breath in my lungs to yell and I wasn’t as frightened. I’m going to start taking self-defense and if something like this ever happens again, and I pray it never does, I will be even stronger.

Submitted by Anonymous

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9 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “Also, what’s wrong with men? Why are they so aggressive?”

    that’s a really unfair statement, despite the caveats you include afterwards.

  2. Golden Silence

    Don’t, I repeat, don’t ever think that any of this is your fault. It’s the fault of these street harassing men!

    There are times when a lot of street harassment happens to me in a regular period, and my family and friends think I bring it upon myself. I get stuck in that feeling of “maybe I do,” but I snap out of it quickly and remember that it’s not my fault. We need to put the blame where it belongs—on these creeps, perverts and sickos!

    You also did the right thing in both scenarios—I thank you on behalf of all recipients of street harassment for calling the cops on these bums.

    Therapy is a great step in overcoming the trauma of being harassed and assaulted. I wish you the best. Incidents like this (hideous as they are) can only make you stronger.

  3. Anonymous

    “Also, what’s wrong with men? Why are they so aggressive?”

    “that’s a really unfair statement, despite the caveats you include afterwards.”

    It’s not a statement it’s a question. Why is it an unfair question? Women aren’t doing these things and while all men aren’t doing this things, all these things are being done by men. Do you not think the problem is largely caused by men? If not, please tell me what the cause of the problem is. If we can’t ask such questions how do we keep from stifling the debate?

  4. viv

    unfair!?!? i’m sorry. but if you’d like to discuss unfair, well, gee – i suppose you’ve started at a good place.
    you want to know what’s unfair? many, many things, actually – least of all is the fact i can’t leave my apartment here in los angeles without dealing with being treated like an object because i happen to be female. and when i say “least of all” i don’t say it to diminish street harassment AT ALL. i say it because women ALSO have to keep in mind far more serious crimes committed against us ALL THE TIME.
    so, please, whether you are male or female, i do NOT find it FAIR of you to tell this poster that her inner dialog after sexual harassment was unfair. how dare you? she has EVERY right to ask these questions in HER OWN MIND.
    go ask the MEN harassing women about fairness, okay? how about that?

  5. […] of two bad instances of street harassment within a few days’ time: a naked masturbator and a crotch groper. She called 911 in both […]

  6. re: viv

    “Also, what’s wrong with men? Why are they so aggressive?”

    So the problem here is something inherent to all men? Should every man be held culpable for the behavior of a deranged few?

  7. hollabackdc

    No, re: viv, the problem is not inherent to all men, it is inherent in our society and the way we raise men and women to believe in gender norms and power and control. We don’t think that every man should be held culpable, but we do think that every man and woman needs to rethink public space and gender based public sexual harassment.

    for some survivors, it is about men and blaming men. for others, it is a different source of pain. regardless, the fact is that all of us need to check ourselves in understanding why we allow certain behaviors to creep into our norms. in this case, why not ask, what made this person think this behavior okay?

    what do you think?

  8. Anonymous

    Maybe a better question is: Why are the people masturbating in public and groping in public largely male? I think that’s a fair question that we haven’t discussed here. What do y’all think?

  9. archana

    thank you for sharing your story; that probably took a lot of courage. i am living in a country where men help themselves to female bodies anywhere and everywhere, but i have never experienced a crotch grab like that. something tells me it is even worse than the things i have already experienced. i hope they catch him, and i hope you stop blaming yourself and find inner peace.