Harassed on the Red Line

Location: Judiciary Square, train headed towards Glenmont
Time: Evening Rush Hour (3:30pm-7:30pm)

I boarded a red line train at 4:45 at Judiciary Square bound for Metro Center. I entered the center doors and made my way to the opposite set of doors to stand for the duration of my trip. There was a young male about 5ft 7in (I am 5’3in), around the ages of 25-30, broad build, wearing an olive colored button down shirt and dark khakis,and light facial hair, sitting on the seats reserved for the disabled and elderly, closest to the doors I entered. I noticed that he was staring at me as I walked by, but I ignored him, opting to pretend to be occupied with my phone. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was still staring at me and then as if steeling himself, and suddenly he had a look of “Okay, let’s do this” on his face and then he sauntered over to where I was standing, trapping me in the corner of where I was standing in the vestibule. He got really close and was like “Hi! I am Keith,”

Normally I do not interact with people on the trains, but he caught me off guard, and since this is the metro closest to my job, and because we have so many contractors on my site, I thought against my better judgement, that he might have been someone from my business. I gave him a fake name, just to test him, but then he stuck out his hand and complimented me on my outfit. Again, despite my better judgement, and out of ingrained politeness, I took his hand and shook it. But when I went to withdraw my hand, he grabbed it back and kept holding my hand. I looked at him as if this was some sort of joke, and was like, “Um, okay…” and tried to pull my hand away. But he still held on, and when I tried again, he turned outwards to face the center of the car, pretending to look like he was oblivious to my discomfort and he was smiling; which made me feel even more uncomfortable because it now looked like, at least in his special world that we were now a couple. The train was stopped between Judiciary Square and Chinatown at this point, and I was extremely frightened, because the nonchalant expression he had. I kept tugging and he kept ignoring me.

The train pretty much empty, a few people at the other ends of the train and of course no one else in my immediate vicinity for me to seek assistance from. I was now really frightened of him, because he was acting so un-phased (sic) about holding on to a stranger’s hand, made be (sic) begin to suspect that either a) he just didn’t give a damn b)he was mentally ill, which was my reasons for not initially jerking away- I was too afraid that a sudden reaction would cause him to go off the handle and possibly attack me. As we got closer to to Chinatown, I redoubled my efforts. Finally I pulled away again, and he looked at me, seeming angry and was like “What’s wrong? What’s wrong with you?” At that point I put our hands at his eye-level and I made a show of now forcefully extracting my hand from his, and said firmly “I don’t mind saying hello, but I don’t know you. Stop touching me!” Our hands dropped, I gave him a dirty look (again I did not want to cause a scene, because if he was mentally ill, I did not want him to go crazy) and went back to my phone, praying that he would just get off at Chinatown.

At this point we were pulling into Chinatown, and he was glaring at me. I did not move because I did not want him to follow me or sit next to me on the train. He then turned facing the doors I had my back to as if to exit, not realizing that the opposite side train doors were the ones to open. This of course unnerved me further because I thought that perhaps had the doors we were standing in front of opened, maybe he would have attempted to drag me off the train or grab my purse. When he realised that the doors were not going to open, he gave me another angry stare and then slunk off the train car out the rear exit (which was strange because, he could have just walked straight across and out the doors opposite where we stood. I had a feeling that he was only switching train cars. And I confirmed this when I reached Metro Center. I exited the train towards the front, amidst a group of people and stood behind the Metro Center platform escalators. Sure enough, I could see him wandering up and down the aisle of the train car that had been the one directly behind the one where the incident occurred.

I then tweeted to WMATA and UnSuck DC metro to alert people of this weirdo. This incident maybe happened over a total of 3 minutes but it was the longest and most uncomfortable 3 minutes of my life! I jumped in the shower and washed my hands under scalding water – GROSS!!

Submitted on 7/11/12 by “RTD”

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Please consider reporting to Metro Transit Police; www.wmata.com/harassment, on Twitter at @WMATAharassment, or 202-962-2121.

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

6 thoughts on “Harassed on the Red Line

  1. You’ve captured the experience perfectly. Too many times I’ve lived this: the “ingrained politeness (for which I later berate myself for “allowing” the incident to reach whatever point it reached), the fear of setting off someone possibly seriously unbalanced, the imagination racing with frightening scenarios (in hopes of quickly devising a plan for survival), and the residual feeling of filth (which can take a long time to “wash off”, depending).

  2. You gave a very detailed description, except for his race. Why is that? Please provide all details that could help identify this guy; if you don’t provide as detailed description as you can, you put others at risk.

  3. I wasn’t fully sure of where this was going to start with. Originally I was thinking that the poster was being really mean and unnecessary to a guy who obviously was shy about talking to her. So if the poster had toned down the vitriol in the beginning it’d be a better article. But then I read the rest and was on board with the grossness

  4. OP here:
    @Asuka: my original post did include the hassasser’s race, but it was edited to comply with CSS’ policy about not posting people’s races to stem any chance of unintentional racial profiling. In the report I did file with WMATA there is a full description of the guy who harassed me.

    @Mark sorry I couldn’t tone down the vitriol,because you know I wasn’t angry and scared at all, by the incident. TBH, in the beginingin your post made me feel bad about myself, because I guess I should have been nicer to a guy who bucked up the courage to talk to me and just smiled a sucked it up and let him take advantage of me, because I wouldn’t want him to think I was a bitch, heavens forbid that I not be on my guard when I notice someone blatantly leering at me and making feel threatened from get-go. Nope, nope, nope, I should just take it, because he had the courage to talk to me, anything else I do just makes me a bitch. /sarcasm. Glad that we both continued reading to see that we were in the end on same page. But I wouldlike to point out that, even if it really was an innocent thing like the guy just wanting to talk to me, it still made me uncomfortable and his approach was unwanted-no one should made to feel bad about their reactions in situation like this, they’re called our gut feelings for a reason. The difference here is that had the conversation ended at the handshake, I wouldn’t have reported it or posted here; it would have just been a really awkward moment on the metro.

    • Yes, yes, yes. I’ve struggled with that ingrained politeness/making allowances for shy and awkward guys argument as well. I used to feel like I owed something to the person, and would end up in these same situations. Or if I was rude to start with, I’d feel guilty. After having been assaulted myself, I did a lot of thinking and came to terms with something: I don’t owe these men ANYTHING. And if I come off as rude or standoffish, that’s just the collateral damage of having been harrassed for years on end.

      Don’t tell me to change my attitude. Tell men to change theirs. Sorry, shy/awkward but well-meaning guys. The harrassers out there have forced me to put my guard up to where I’ve always got to be prepared in case something escalates. Better in my mind just not to let it start. It’s not rude, it’s me playing the best defense I have.

      This is the end result of public harrassment- EVERYONE suffers in some way, both men and women. It affects women (and those in the LGBT population- not exclusively, but predominantly), which then turns around and affects the men that we encounter. Think harrassment doesn’t affect you because you’re a straight dude? THINK AGAIN.

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