Saturday Night Assault

I normally don’t walk alone at night — I tend to drive or ride my bike, but I sold my car a week prior and my bike had a flat tire.

I walked to a friend’s house at about 8:20 pm on a Saturday night. I was walking past the block of 13th and Columbia, when I heard a rustling and naturally turned around to see what was behind me, and it was a person, possibly walking from the front of a yard. By the time I crossed 13th and Irving, I turned around again and I could see the man behind me more clearly because he was now under the street light in the intersection. I made a point to make eye contact so he knew that I was aware of his presence. I may have turned around once more, to make the point again.

Before I go on with the rest of the story, let me say that the scenario thus far, me simply walking in DC, seeing an untrusting man and trying to maintain awareness of the situation, occurs everytime I walk somewhere. So there wasn’t too much of a difference in this situation that would tell me that this guy was necessarily up to something. So I walked another block, and didn’t think about it too much.

By the time I reached 13th and Lamont, I stopped for a second, then realized he was directly behind me. I shuffled myself for a second, then he put his hand up my skirt, and reached my upper thigh. I got really annoyed and said “you fucking asshole.” He tried to get away from me, but I started chasing after him, because I was so angry. I chased him for about 100 feet, when he reached an alley and ran into it. I got maybe a quarter of the way into the alley when I gave up running and could only scream a final insult at the top of my lungs.

There was a family walking by on Kenyon St, that heard the commotion and asked if I was ok. I said yes, but there was a man that tried to reach up my skirt. I called my friend, to tell him what happened, then decided to continue a few blocks to get to the house.

I realize now that I could have called the police, to file a report right away. I tend to think that the police don’t take sexual harassment/abuse very seriously, so I feared relaying the story to someone that might dismiss it as insignificant.

The next morning, I woke up and thought, the police station is only a few blocks away, I may as well walk over to file a report. I was really pleased to see that the first officer I spoke with took the situation very seriously, and asked if I wouldn’t mind waiting to meet with a detective to file a formalized report.

When the detective came, I gave her all of the information, including a fairly good description of the man. He was a Hispanic male, about 5’8″ smaller/medium build, wearing a darker shirt, long pants, and a mostly white baseball cap. I was able to see him clearly the night before when I turned around and saw him crossing the well lit intersection. The detective gave me her business card with the report number. She was very professional, and answered all of my questions. The incident was filed as Misdemeanor Sexual Abuse. She said that people who commit this type of crime are less likely to abuse someone again if they were to be caught and charged, so I felt really good about filing the report.

I have told a few people what happened, and have gotten a few comments about my chasing the man, and whether I should have done that. When I look at it objectively, I can agree that it is probably unsafe to chase after someone, because they may have a weapon, or may otherwise try to assault you. I have to say that for me, I don’t regret doing what I did, because I honestly thought it was the right thing to do in the situation. Fight or flight kicked in, and I chose to “fight.” It wouldn’t be right for me to encourage anyone to chase a perpetrator down, but I will say that I encourage people to cultivate an attitude where you will fight back if you have to. I tried to do everything I could to stay out of harms way, but if someone challenges me and my safety is at risk, then I access the situation, and won’t go down without a fight.

At the very least, I came across as someone who will put up a fight, so I think that could have prevented the situation from being more harmful.

Location: 13th & Lamont St NW

Submitted by Francesca

Submitted on September 14, 2009

4 Responses

  1. Josef

    So proud of you, Franch! You are very courageous. I am glad you’re safe after a very scary situation, but your strength and calm under duress really helped move this toward a proper resolution — putting this guy behind bars. Thanks for sharing your story, and I hope it inspires others to follow your example of taking these types of assault to the authorities.

  2. Stacey

    Fran! I’m so sorry this happened to you. Thank you for sharing your story, and trying to empower others to take action against sexual assault and harassment. Whether chasing the man was the right thing to do isn’t up to anyone else… You did what was necessary for YOU in that moment!

    You are a strong and courageous woman, and I have the utmost respect for you.

  3. EJ

    This is why I carry pepper spray in an easily-reachable outside pocket, and when I’m followed I take it out of my bag and hold it in my hand ready to fire. You can buy pepper spray at a hardware or sporting goods store.

  4. DR

    While I understand why you chased him, the first rule that the USG teaches all of its overseas employees is to ‘break contact’ and get to somewhere safe ASAP. I am not sure if pepper spray is illegal in DC, but you have to be knowledgable in how to use it as if you do not disable your attacker, he could get enraged and make things worse.