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.
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.