I’m so glad to have find this site today. I’ve experienced harassment on the streets of several cities, but I had a particularly disconcerting run-in last night.
I was riding the bus home from a friend’s house last night around 10pm. I get off at U and 14th, and even at that hour I don’t usually feel any discomfort, because there are plenty of people out and about at restaurants or bars. Last night, however, I found myself trapped on the bus with TWO harassers. I almost wish I hadn’t noticed them. They were both youngish men, I’d say in their mid twenties to early thirties. I’m not sure if they got on together, but I noticed one of them as he got on because he was wearing a black ski cap that said JESUS on it in large rainbow letters. He sat down one row behind me and to the left. I was vaguely aware of him talking to the man across from him, who was sitting behind me.
I was very much in my own mind, but I happened to glance back as we entered U St – maybe something on the street caught my eye. My timing was perfect, or perfectly wrong. As I glanced back, I caught the man behind me making a lewd gesture suggesting large breasts, and pointing at me. This was clearly for his friend’s benefit, and the other man saw me notice the interaction and started to laugh. I felt humiliated, ashamed, and trapped. These men were directly behind me, and I was afraid of what any movement or reaction on my part would elicit from them. I hoped that they would feel too ashamed to continue the harassment, but I was not so lucky. I listened to them whispering lecherously and laughing for the next 10 minutes, and saw one man making lewd gestures with his hips in my peripheral vision. I felt physically sick, and texted a friend for support. I considered getting up and moving, but was afraid to incite further abuse by exposing my body any more. I was wearing black pants and a long black wool coat, and was bundled up against the cold.
My night got momentarily worse when it became clear that these men were getting off at the same stop as I was. I was afraid of continued harassment on the street, without the relative safety of the well-lit bus and proximity of driver and other passengers. I waited until they had fully exited the bus to move, and was relieved to see them walking away with their backs turned. I hurried home, feeling shaken and ill.
I consider myself a strong woman who doesn’t take shit, and I’ve stood up to verbal harassment on more than a few occasions, but I have never felt so helpless. I was not walking by these men, or in a crowded subway where I could easily disappear. I was trapped, forced to ride with them for 4 blocks while they discussed my body and made god knows what sexual jokes at my expense.
I feel better having written about this, but I’d love some feedback – does anyone have a suggestion, if I or another woman finds herself in this position? Confrontation felt risky in such an enclosed space, but in future I might move forward and sit as close to the driver as possible.
Thanks for all you do.
Submitted by M.I. on 1/14/2010
Location: 90 bus, between 9th and U and 14th and U
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