“Putting in the effort to catch him wasn’t just for me – it was for all of us who are subjected to disgusting behavior day in and day out”

posted in: Union Station | 15

Location:  Union Station (escalator to mezzanine on east side of First St., NW)
Time: Day Time (9:30am-3:30pm)

It was just like any other Friday morning as I headed to physical therapy on the metro at Union Station. I was immersed in a phone conversation with a good friend as I stood on the escalator heading towards the mezzanine. I didn’t want to get in the way of anyone, so I made sure to stand on the right side of the escalator. Three-quarters of the way down, I felt a hand behind me as it made its way between my thighs, graze my vagina, and back towards my butt. For a nanosecond, I froze…I wasn’t aware there someone was standing so close behind me. I began to scream once it registered that a pervert had sexually assaulted me. Now at the bottom of the escalator, I turned around and confronted the perpetrator. I yelled repeatedly (hoping someone would do something): “This man assaulted me!” and “This man touched me between my legs!”. He told me that I was: “Crazy”, “Making it up”, and (of course) “It didn’t happen” – familiar phrases also said by the perpetrator who sexually assaulted me in the District almost one year ago. 

by brownpau via Flickr

I then started to yell even louder attempting to get the attention of Metro employees, but unfortunately to no avail; not one person there did anything to intervene, deescalate the situation, restrain the individual, or even call police.  [Emphasis added by CASS.] The confrontation must have lasted for around one to two minutes, by which time he exited the station. Women have a natural tendency to be caretakers and advocates for others, but it is much more difficult to give ourselves the same attention. I thought of the stories shared by women on CASS who are subjected to this same bullshit on a daily basis…and I quickly became filled with rage. [Emphasis added by CASS.] Determined to make sure this pervert did not get away – like the one on the bike in Dupont Circle – I called police, then began chasing him by foot for six to seven blocks. I knew that there was no way this guy was going to get caught if I didn’t follow him. Just as I thought I lost him, five police cars arrived on the scene, and they were quickly able to locate him – get this – inside of a church “sweating bullets”. The stories shared by all of you gave me an insane adrenaline rush that caused me to go chase after this guy down North Capitol Street, NW.  [Emphasis added by CASS.] Putting in the effort to catch him wasn’t just for me – it was for all of us who are subjected to disgusting behavior this day in and day out. And it doesn’t need to be this way forever…we just have to have the courage to continue sharing our stories. Keep up the good work, gals (and guys)!

P.S. Needless to say, I am incredibly disappointed with the (lack of) response by Union Station Metro employees at the time of this incident. I did not expect them to chase this guy with me, but at the very least, the Metro employees should have at least walked over to see what the raucous was all about. The incident has been reported to Metro. 

Submitted on 7/25/12 by Salma

Editor’s Note: After we published Salma’s post, her WJLA ABC 7 picked up her story. By our request, Salma also gave an empowering talk at CASS’s October 2012 Meet & Greet, “Let’s Make Change Happen!” CASS is dedicated to helping give voice to those who experience street harassment. Let us know if you have a story you’d like to share by submitting to our blog (see below).

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.

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


15 Responses

  1. Sue H

    Total respect. You’ve really made my day. As one of the women who you were doing this for, thank you.

  2. Dianne

    Brava! You rock.

  3. SMSinTX

    Good for you, and thank you! I was violated by a man taking a picture up my shorts a year ago, and I was shocked into inaction. I have always regretted not responding in the way you did. I’m so glad you took control of the situation and shared your story with all of us.

  4. Kel

    Thank you, Salma! I’m sorry this happened to you, but I’m glad the police responded and he was apprehended. Hopefully, your complaint to Metro won’t fall on deaf ears and their employees will start to listen and respond, although I have little faith in Metro.

  5. […] Underground: A woman groped on the Metro tracked down her attacker until police could intervene, according to a story posted on Collective Action for Safe Spaces.  […]

  6. eubie44

    There is an aura of indiference with some of the Metro Operators. Some have either an attitude or a serious superiority complex that is getting in the way of delivering “world class” customer service.

  7. D

    Salma, you are awesome for what you did. Hats off to you!

    And to believe that he was quaking in his boots in a church of all places! He’s disgusting.

  8. Miranda

    Oh man, good on ya for putting the fear of God in that creep. I’ve always wanted to do something like that to the creeps at my station. I hope the Metro actually responds to your complaint. Thank you, you’re awesome.

  9. dcn8v

    Wow, Salma. I am full of pride and respect that you reacted this way on all our behalf! Thank you so much for your bravery. You ROCK.

  10. Salma

    Thanks for all of the good vibes, everyone!!! I continue to gain inspiration from all of your stories and feedback, and I really hope many of you find the same from my story, as well.

    Since I submitted this post to CASS (huge shout out to them for posting my story, by the way!), the US Attorneys Office decided to prosecute the perpetrator and he is now incarcerated. (He apparently did the same thing at the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro in 2011 – go figure!) However, Metro has not resolved the situation, unfortunately – there was some brief follow-up by various employees after the incident for a week or two, but no concrete steps to figure out what the heck happened that day and why their employees did absolutely nothing. The PSAs are a great first step, but WMATA still has a long way to go…

  11. renee

    Salma, thank you SO much for your post! We at CASS are so proud that you reacted so bravely (and glad that you got away OK!) and are honored that you’ve shared your story. What you wrote here speaks to the very heart of our mission – working to raise an awareness about street & sexual harassment, so that survivors can bring the issue out of the silence, and even feel empowered to respond to harassment in a way that feels right with them. If you want to learn more about CASS, we’re actually hosting a Meet & Greet this Thursday (October 18th) at the Change.org offices in NW DC. Check out details here! http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/2012/10/12/lets-make-change-happen-an-anti-street-harassment-sexual-assault-meet-greet/

    On a side note, readers might notice that Salma’s post was submitted in July. After Liz Gorman courageously shared her story or her sexual assault in Dupont Circle that month http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/2012/07/12/5519/), we received a FLOOD of reader submissions on their experiences. As always, we’ve been posting in the order in which submissions were received.

    Hope to see readers this Thursday! Thanks, all.

  12. John B

    Good job
    You stated he had been previously convicted. In each incident, what was the charge?

    How much time did he serve?

  13. Melanie

    Way to hang in there and stand up for yourself. Thank you for getting this creep off the street for at least a little while.

  14. M!

    It’s amazing how experiencing a violation such as the one described above can render even the toughest, most outspoken person meek and silent. You know that you should yell out or react but you’re just sort of… frozen. You feel sickened, but you also feel ashamed, as if You’re the one to blame. So you just sort of brush it off or you hesitate too long to respond. Afterwards, if you do nothing, you once again shift the blame onto yourself.
    You don’t want to “cause a scene” or “overreact” or “play the victim”.
    I know the feeling all too well.
    Sadly, I think most of us do.

    Salma, thank you for sharing your experience. Thank you for being brave and fighting back. This is such an inspirational story and I hope that it lingers in the minds of readers so that if something like this happens (to them or someone around them) they won’t hesitate to react.
    We’ve shrugged it off for too long.
    Something CAN and SHOULD be done.

  15. […] experiences within a supportive community was demonstrated when a CASS blog contributor shared her story in person, which inspired tears, hugs, and many words of support (it even ended up on ABC […]