“I feel so unsafe in DC”

I’ve started to feel so unsafe in DC (and at the workplace, but that’s another story) that I rarely walk around the neighborhood without my boyfriend anymore. He’s rail-thin and nerdy, but apparently as long as I’m holding hands with a male, other men won’t encroach on my personal space. They still make comments, though it’s limited to seemingly nonthreatening “hold on to that pretty lady” remarks, so at least the truly scary stuff doesn’t happen when he’s with me.

Of course, I can’t be with him all the time, like when I’m taking the bus to work. I’ve been harassed by two different Metrobus drivers now. It’s frustrating that I can’t even have a nice quiet bus ride when a driver decides he’s entitled to my attention.

The first time was when I was the only passenger on an Alexandria DASH bus, wearing something pretty because I was on my way to a first date with someone nice. The driver started off with “Don’t look so sad” (I was just staring out the window) and I gave a polite but noncommittal response every time he tried to restart the conversation. When my stop arrived, he refused to open the back exit even though I was sitting way in the back in five-inch heels, forcing me to walk all the way to the front to pass by him as I left. He yelled “HAVE A NICE DAY!” with a resentful tone, like I was so rude not to acknowledge him as I left the bus.

The second time was on the 23A. The driver kept staring at me from the rear view mirror. Trying to avoid automatically pegging him as a creeper, I considered the possibility that maybe he was trying to tell me something, like there was something on my face, or my shirt was buttoned wrong, or maybe my SmarTrip card didn’t take when I swiped it. He then gestured for me to come forward.

“Can I have your number? You’re so beautiful.”

Ugh.

“I have a boyfriend,” I said.

“Can we be friends?”

“I have a boyfriend.”

Luckily, he got the message and backed off. I’ve been through this enough times to suss out the man and take the right approach for him to leave me alone, but it’s still unsettling to be approached like this from a bus driver, because this situation in particular feels like entitlement and an abuse of power. They know they have leverage in these situations, since they control the vehicle you are riding and have the power to keep the doors shut, yell at you in front of other passengers, cause danger for everyone, etc.

I should have reported it at the time, but I was just thankful that he backed off. If it happened to me again, I would definitely take his name and picture and report the incident to proper Metro authority. I’d hate for them to feel more confident in doing this to other women, thinking/knowing they can get away with it.

Submitted by JRS

Location: VA Metrobus

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

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3 responses to ““I feel so unsafe in DC”

  1. I am sick of these bus drivers using their jobs to harass women. The only thing they should be doing is driving the bus, not harassing and intimidating their female passengers.

  2. I’m not sure if “I have a boyfriend” is the right response, although I see it used frequently. This man shouldn’t be asking for your phone number while he’s on duty regardless of your relationship-commitment status. I believe “that’s inappropriate while you are on duty” might be a better response.

    • “I’m not sure if “I have a boyfriend” is the right response…”

      I agree. Saying you’re another man’s property shouldn’t be the answer to get harassers to back off. And it doesn’t always work.

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