“Stop talking to me RIGHT now.”

This happened earlier this spring. It was a Wednesday evening; I was taking the train from Friendship Heights, where my dance studio is, to my home in Silver Spring.

While on the train I was reading a book about polynesian culture and I was sitting on the inside seat. The train was fairly empty. Out of nowhere a large man in a green coat came up behind me and sat on top of me. I was shocked and thought it was an accident, so I ignored him. He began mumbling and I realized he was making comments about the book I was reading. The more he spoke the more the comments escalated; he began by saying things like, “You think you’re Tahitian? Tahitian chicks are hot,” which led to, “I’m going to put my penis in that tiny white vagina of yours.” That’s when I turned to him, looked him in the eye and sternly said, “Stop talking to me RIGHT now.” The guy became angry that I rejected his advances and immediately replied, “this is a free country. I can do whatever I want.”

He turned his music up loudly and began burping in my face. His burps and belches were coming every 10 to 45 seconds and they continued for the next three to five minutes. Because I was in the window seat, I was afraid that if I stood up and tried to move he would grope me. I tried to think of something to say and I tried to scream, but I just froze. I couldn’t get anything out. Finally, another passenger–a man–asked the harasser to have some respect. This again made the harasser angry, but instead of retaliating he left the train at the next station.

When I made it to Silver Spring, I reported the incident to the Metro Police. They came out with  rape kit test and when I told them I had not been sexually assaulted, only sexually harassed, they told me what had happened was not a crime and essentially lectured me about turning mole hills into mountains. I tried to explain that if this guy did this to me, he’s probably going to do it to other people and it will probably escalate, but they didn’t seem to take note or even care. They did at least take a description of the man.

Submitted by Jonna on  10/29/10

Location: Friendship Heights Metro.

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

12 responses to ““Stop talking to me RIGHT now.”

  1. Ugh…I’m disgusted reading this. So it’s okay for this guy to make lewd comments, burp in your face and come close to threatening you?! Metro Transit Police needs an overhaul!

  2. I am infuriated that Metro didn’t take your very real, very valid complaint and concern for your safety seriously.

    I wonder what Metro’s policy/plan is regarding harassment on trains and buses. It happens WAY TOO OFTEN.

    You might also want to let unsuck dc metro know:

    http://unsuckdcmetro.blogspot.com/

    They seem to have WMATA’s ear.

    I’m sorry it happened to you.

  3. I am so sorry this happened to you! And I am so tired of people not taking these situations seriously. SICK AND TIRED.

  4. I’m sorry this happened to you, and the police response was totally inaccurate: sexual harrassment in which the person being harassed is frightened meets the black letter definition for assault. If he touched you at all in the process, you could reasonably have called it battery as well.

    That said, a piece of defensive Metro riding advice: Never sit in the window seat when you are alone.

    You are under no obligation to “slide in” and sit in the window seat if you do not want to or do not feel comfortable. You’re also not entitled to pile your crap next to you preventing other patrons from sitting down [g] but anyone who tries to make you slide in or gives you cr*p for not sitting in the window seat is abusive and has an overinflated sense of entitlement.

  5. It was a very different situation, with similar results – I was at Gallery Place (at a bus stop next to the Metro entrance) and witnessed a young tennage boy being bullied and beaten up. My husband ran off to find a cop, and reported it to a Metro employee (the only uniformed person we could find, at 8pm at Gallery Place, despite there being 3 police cars parked on the street.) The Metro employee said it wasn’t his responsibility, and yelled at my husband when he asked the employee to call Metro police. The group of kids ran off (literally past my husband and the employee) and he just shrugged his shoulders. It’s incredibly disappointing that Metro employees don’t find it their responsibility to report bullying and harassment. It’s a DC-wide problem, too, since DC police REGULARLY tell bicyclists and pedestrians that they shouldn’t report incidents (including, so I’ve heard/witnessed recently, being groped on the Met Branch Trail, being knocked off a bike there and someone intentionally trying to hit a pedestrian with a car.) It SUCKS to be a residents – or visitor or worker – here, when the police don’t take seriously – and actually try to dissuade – reports of harassment and harm.

  6. Looks like WMATA’s Metro Police need to re-read the DC and MD code. What you described is a crime. http://bit.ly/a2Kdqp

    While not sexual assault, “DC § 22-1312. Lewd, indecent, or obscene acts” can be seen as a step to prevent that sort of encounter from escalating to assault. You could follow up with WMATA and file a complaint about how they handled the situation.

    I can’t help but feel that if they can get away without having to do the paperwork on a call they’ll do everything they can to avoid it. Which includes trying to make out like it wasn’t a big deal. Even when an assault is involved (In my case by taking advantage of the victim having a slight concussion on not thinking straight. Though it wasn’t sexual assault, just a sucker punch to the jaw…)

  7. Bah, typical .gov site making it imposible to link directly to the law.

    Division IV. Criminal Law and Procedure and Prisoners.
    Title 22. Criminal Offenses and Penalties. (Refs & Annos)
    Subtitle I. Criminal Offenses.
    Chapter 13. Disturbances of the Public Peace.
    § 22-1312. Lewd, indecent, or obscene acts.

    (a) It shall not be lawful for any person or persons to make any obscene or indecent exposure of his or her person, or to make any lewd, obscene, or indecent sexual proposal in the District of Columbia under penalty of not more than $300 fine, or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both, for each and every such offense.

    (b) Any person or persons who shall commit an offense described in subsection (a) of this section, knowing he or she or they are in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years, shall be punished by imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or fined in an amount not to exceed $1,000, or both, for each and every such offense.

  8. The Hell with Metro police! Yeah, I said it. They didn’t take a report when someone reported a pervert for taking photos up skirting due to “too much paperwork”. The Arlington police did and caught the guy.

    Report this to the DC police. They’ll take it more seriously.

  9. Sitting next to somebody and having a filthy mouth is rude and disgusting, but not a crime. There is no assault, because all he did was sit down in an unoccupied seat. If that was a crime, every over eager human phallus in every bar downtown would be put away for life. That being said, you did exactly the right thing by confronting his rude behavior directly. A “free country” does not mean that everything you do can not be subject to (harsh)critism. I have shocked many a rude bastard by calling them out and slept just fine at night later. In a free country, not everything is a crime or police matter, but there are things that a gentleman (or lady) may have to handle on the spot.

    • You and the Metro police are wrong.

      It IS against the law. Pasted from above:

      (a) It shall not be lawful for any person or persons to make any obscene or indecent exposure of his or her person, or to make any lewd, obscene, or indecent sexual proposal</b< in the District of Columbia under penalty of not more than $300 fine, or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both, for each and every such offense.

      (emphasis mine)

  10. Thank you everyone for the support. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  11. Pingback: WMATA doesn’t take reports of sexual harassment and assault seriously. | Holla Back DC!

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