“I’ll never let that happen again.”

Location:  Orange Line between Foggy Bottom and Capitol South
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

I was heading home from campus, seated on the metro near a window, and reading. A man sat next to me and reached down – between my legs – to retrieve something that was on the floor near my feet. It was an old luggage tag, the kind you attach to a suitcase, and it wasn’t mine. I was shocked that he reached between my legs to pick the tag up, but he clearly wasn’t American and spoke limited English. He asked me if the tag was mine and when I said it wasn’t, he reached BACK between my legs to place it back on the floor. I was shocked again, about two stops away from my destination, and burning with anger and shame. I stayed silent, just trying to get home without causing a scene, and I think that made him think his actions were acceptable, that American women were tolerant of these kinds of things.

The worst part came next: as he continued to sit next to me, and I continued to stew silently trying to figure out what to do, he started rubbing his erect penis through his pants. Again, I was shocked into silence, and I think he knew that he (literally) had me cornered. When my stop arrived and I had to get past him to exit the train, he stood but refused to get out of the way so that I would have to rub against him to get past him. I yelled at him at that point, demanding that he get out of the way, but even when he stepped into the aisle he positioned himself so that we touched. He then stared at me, still rubbing himself, while I got off the train. I was humiliated and angry at myself that I didn’t say something more, that I didn’t stop him from reaching between my legs or call him out on his completely inappropriate behavior. But I didn’t. I only realized later what I should have done. I’ll never let that happen again.

Submitted on 12/3/12 by “EBD”

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3 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    You didn’t “let” it happen. That man assaulted you, emotionally if nothing else. He took advantage of your inclination to be polite as an excuse to violate your personal space and comfort. If it ever happen again, though, just scream. Take his picture with your phone. Hell, make a video and post it to YouTube. Weird molesters and assaulters, be aware: we WILL make you known to EVERYONE.

  2. Dave

    This is a big problem in the Latino community, at least that’s the conclusion I’ve reached whilst living in pre-dominantly Latino areas in Maryland and Virginia since 2007. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone is like that, but it was something that I saw happening almost everyday. Driving around I often see men walking down the street notice a woman and then begin to follow her. This seems especially common in the migrant workers who loiter in front of convenience stores and banks for hours at a time. One of the things I’ve noticed about this website is its reluctance to talk about race in an effort to avoid generalizations; this is obviously very important, but I think there’s an opportunity that’s being lost. These communities need to be educated on these kinds of issues; six years ago it would have seemed unimaginable to see and hear some of the things that over here are commonplace, but there are times now that I forget that it’s wrong for a man to proposition a woman he sees on the street. But these communities are so isolated — it feels as though places like Langley Park and Manassas are its own nations with a set of rules and principles that are quite different than that of the larger society. So, I hope someone reads this and thinks that maybe a different approach to combating sexual harassment is needed.

  3. MsKat

    Before, I would have been like you, but now I probably would have stood on the seat and stepped on his lap just to get out the seat. Not that I would expect any riders to react, but if they did I would tell them why I climbed over him to get out of the seat. I have had 2 sexual harassment incidents in the past few years before the ‘tell someone’ campaign, but fortunately in both the guy was anxious to leave the train before I could get an actual look at his face, so I had no further contact. I think when it first happens we always see things we could have done better in retrospect, but I know that unfortunately the more practice we have at fighting back the better we handle it. It is great that you have reflected on the incident and now know what you might do differently. It was a learning experience, albeit quite unfortunate.