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.