Dear PoP – extremely disturbing incident on orange line metro

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

“Dear PoP,

I wanted to tell you what happened to me on my way to work Tuesday morning. I reported this case of sexual assault to Metro Police, but I don’t feel like that accomplishes much.

This morning, I boarded the orange line at L’Enfant Plaza in the direction of Vienna. I was engrossed in a book and on “auto-pilot” on the way to work. When I got on the train, a man sat down next to me, in the seat closest to the aisle.

Continues after the jump, warning disturbing description of incident follows.

I sat next to him for about 10 minutes before I realized he was masturbating right next to me. I was shocked! When he realized that I had noticed he started talking to me, and making comments about oral sex. The train car wasn’t full, but there were many people in my near vicinity including families with small children. I had to ask him to get up and let me out, which thankfully he did, and moved to another car.

I was so nauseous and disgusted after this whole incident. Its especially shocking considering the time of day and the amount of people on the train. I reported the incident to Metro Police. The man was African American, about 40 years old, wearing jeans and a baseball cap. We were in the last car of the orange line train departing from L’Enfant Plaza in the direction of Vienna at about 10:30 AM this morning.

I don’t know what good it does to tell you this story, but I know there is little that the Metro Police can do.

I will be interested to see if there are others with similar stories or suggestions for what to do if this happens to others in the future.”

If anyone encounters a situation like this definitely don’t be afraid to scream/ask for help from your fellow passengers. Unfortunately incidents like this can escalate to even worse acts of aggression.

49 Comment

  • Wow, this is truly disturbing.
    The only thing I could suggest is if anyone notices it just stay calm (if it’s at all possible), pretend you haven’t noticed it, get your cell phone out and take a picture of him.

  • I think every female who uses metro for a long time has some ugly story to tell – _ I have two but what’s the point. Some men use our public transportation system to abuse women and it is very depressing.

  • Sounds like a disturbing incident – ugh.

    And, what the writer describes was not sexual assault. Sexual harassment, yes and really disgusting but not assault. Although he could have been charged with indecent exposure or something.

    Good reminder to be aware of your surroundings.

    • No. Sexual harassment is when your boss says “you have to have sex with me or loose your job”.

      This is just disgusting behavior and maybe indecent exposure.

      Everything that is objectionable relating to sex isn’t harassment. Maybe someone with actual legal knowledge can chime in?

  • It’s the wild west down there. I’m at the point where if someone is doing something I just don’t look. It always someone pissing, taking a duce, doing drugs or masturbating. It’s always like hmmm what is that guy doing???? Why is he messing around ohhhhhhhh should not have looked. What I have had happen to me two nights ago on the way home from work was almost the same thing. A girl was sitting across from me and a guy came and took it out. I was watching my ipod and all of a sudden the girl stood up and sat next to me and told the guy I was her boyfriend. I was shocked but I played along and they guy went through the doors at the end of the train to the next car and got off at the next stop and ran. She was shaking and we got off at my stop and I asked her if she wanted the cops and she said it was the fourth time something like that happened in seven months. I put her in a cab and paid for it.

    It struck me as a good idea that if your having a problem on the train to personally involve someone else. I’m not looking to fight everyone on the train but I will more than likely help if there is a problem. Most of the time I’m not looking and no one else is either. I doubt anyone on the train knew what was going on. If your having a problem make it known to others, ask for help. There are lots of boyfriend/ girlfriend arguments on the metro that I want no part of but I don’t know if you know the guy or what, so just ask for help. I don’t think tasers are legal in the city unless you live there but mace is. Get a can of mace and mace em in the eyes then where ever else it would hurt. Someone would know what was going on and it would draw attention to the situation. The cops would be involved and I doubt the guy would ever do that again.

    • I’m sure there’s some sort of documented explanation of this phenomenon that I’m not aware of, but more often than not, the men who are abusive toward women like the one mentioned above become complete weaklings whenever another man enters the scene. He probably would’ve doubled over in pain if you’d so much as touched him with your pinky finger.

    • Well, first I want to say that I agree and you should involve someone else on the train (if there is anyone on the train) and just publicly expose him, have someone press the emergency button and get the cops. There is probably a great chance that this guy has done this several times, so maybe the police already has a record on him and then they can arrest him. But without calling the police, he will keep on doing what he’s doing. My sister has been in this situation several times (not in DC) – and this is the only thing that has been working for her.

      Also, regarding mace – to my knowledge it’s actually illegal in DC. I think pepperspray is legal, but I believe you need to have it registered.

      • Yep, I think both mace is illegal and pepperspray is not, as defined in DC Code 7-2502.12 to 7-2502.14 or something like that. I prefer a knife with a three inch blade, which is likewise legal and also useful for cutting apples.

        Then again, my hilarious elderly neighbor has a can of police issue riot mace that she uses on guys peeing on her wall (she’s on the alley). I quote: “I aim for their privates!!!!”

        • Mace is chloroacetophenone [aka phenacyl chloride] and explicitly allowed under DC Code 7-2502.12. Bottom line is most self defense sprays are all good in DC. My comment on whether you really want to spray it in a Metro car is awaiting moderation…

      • Most self defense sprays are legal here, not just pepper spray. I can list the 9-syllable chemical compounds if you want, or you can check DC Code.

        Bottom line – self defense sprays are legal to carry if you’re over 18, and must only be registered if you buy them in DC, but it’s the sellers responsibility to forward the registration form to MPD. You can just buy out of state and bring/carry it here. Nothing prohibiting that. Whether you want to spray a chemical irritant in an enclosed Metro car is another question. I’ve decontaminated people sprayed with pepper spray/mace. Can’t imagine what it would feel like if someone were sprayed in the genitals with it, but I’m pretty sure they would think twice about ‘whipping it out’ in public ever again.

  • City Paper covered this issue with many women telling similar stories. It’s saddening and depressing but a constant reality. Being a woman is terrible at times.

    • Give me a break! You think guys love to see some guy masturbating in the subway? That behavior is objectionable to everyone.

      • noone wants or should see that. but women have to worry about what the guy might do next.

      • There is a huge difference between having to see that, which is disgusting to be fair, and being personally targeted by these people. I’m sure you can’t understand, but knowing someone is using your body for his own gratification without your permission is much more disturbing. Knowing that just by virtue of your sex there are creepers out there who use you and objectify you wherever you go makes you feel powerless. It’s not fair; it’s not right; and it’s not just about being gross out by public displays of indecency.

        So yes, everyone hates this kind of stuff, and everyone should. But don’t even try to act like men having to see it have it as bad as women who are personally victimized by it, which most women are at some point.

        One thing though that people, men and women, can do is, as that annoying metro announcer lady says, “See something? Say something.” When you see someone being abuses by some creeper, ask them if they’re okay. Step in. Often the victim freezes up, and the more people who interrupt the creep, the more likely he is to stop and move on. They embarrass easily. If you don’t say anything, then you are condoning that abuse by your silence.

        • +1

          Indeed, to know that it is YOU they are looking at, and getting off on, is very very disturbing. Just seeing someone being nasty doesn’t come close to being the object of their ‘affection’.

          Unfortunately, I think that many people don’t quite understand the difference.

  • This happened to me 6 times in my life (the first time when I was 15!). Each time I reacted differently: I hit the guy with my purse and screamed and cried, I ignored the guy and got up to leave, and my most memorable one: I took a deep breath, stood up and in a loud, circus-presenter voice I announced it to the whole train! I said “Ladies and Gentlemen: Meet the masturbator! This guy right here is masturbating, that’s right, he’s a perv and you should meet him! look at him, look, look!” The train was still at the station and the guy literally RUN OUT the door, he was super embarassed, and I just laughed and laughed…. Of course people looked at me funny but since I am not afraid of being ridiculous, it worked for me. I had a blast and I am sure he’s going to think twice before doing that again.

    These guys get off of seeing you annoyed, flustered, upset, so one way to go may be to pretend that you didn’t see what he was doing (if you can pull it off) and don’t let them see how shaken you are inside. But that’s not easy to do…or say something along the lines of “that’s a small d*ck you have in there”

    Sorry that happened to you. It’s a disturbing incident (as I know well) and it takes a while to shaken it off.

    I know that taking a strong action i snot always easy, but it may make you feel better afterwards.

    • ah

      If you have the b-, er, guts to pull this off, that’s fantastic.

      My mom likes to regale me with a story from her youth of the flasher who pulled it out on her and she just stared, pointed, and said “but it’s so small!” Apparently it got even smaller.

    • houseintherear

      + a billion to gus.

      Seriously, embarrass them and they’ll go away. Works with asshat teenagers in the neighborhood, masturbators on trains, the list goes on and on.

    • Gus, you are my hero.

  • It’s amazing some people seem to think that this is the actions of an otherwise normal guy who decides to act this way. This isn’t the sign of a morally declining society. This is a sign of a sick individual who isn’t receiving proper mental care. This same guy probably sleeps in the park, craps his pants and talks to benches on a daily basis.

  • That’s pretty vile.

    You should have taken a picture of his face at least or possibly a quick video on your phone.

    The cops aren’t going to do anything unless they can track him down.

  • I seen a man who fits this description mastubating in Meridian Hill Park and Dupont Circle in broad daylight. Sadly, no one gave him a second look.

  • My wife had a guy sit down near her on the Orange line with his dumbells and start pumping iron while calling her a “white B-” under his breath the whole time. There are a bunch of sickos out there and I don’t necessarily recommend escalating the situation.

    Go with your gut.

  • I unfortunately have seen this dozens of times in the NYC Subways…I guess be happy that you do not live there?

  • happened at the university of Maryland in one of our shuttle buses. The buses have cameras so the college newspaper put a picture of the guy in the newspaper as well. Too bad the picture wasnt clear and it was dark.

    (Bus Security Camera Fail)

    All they said and knew of the person was that he was African-American and to report to the police if anyone has any leads (it was damn funny)

  • Whenever I observe weird people acting out (non-violently, cf course) on the trains, I simply get off at the next stop and move to another car.

  • What’s the answer to this problem? More Metro Police on the trains? (Not a rhetorical question – I really don’t know how to alleviate this problem).

  • The metro must be full of creeps..The same thing happened to my friend who was on her way to Vienna on a Saturday morning.

    I witnessed a man pleasuring himself in the Bethesda station at 1am about a year ago.

  • Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurance. Take a look through The Sexist’s archives at the WCP and read their series on groping and harassment on DC public transit…it’s practically endless.

  • This is why you carry sabre pepper spray. And tell metro police it’s the guy who thinks his eyes are melting.

  • My mom always taught me to vomit on the guy in those instances. Sounds gross…but it will do the trick.

  • and present an interesting idea – a website that publicly posts stories and pictures of violators like the writer describes. It’s not fun to read how lamentably common these situtations are, but the act of posting and writing about it really seems to help some women process and retake control of their feelings about the experience. They’ll even have an iPhone app soon!

  • SouthwestDC

    I’ve known a couple of women who separately had incidents like this, also on the Orange Line. I have to wonder if it’s the same guy.

    • There’s a male that rides the Orange Line that often enters/exits at the Virginia Square/GMU station that has approached both me and a friend of mine. Although he hasn’t done anything so explicit as the scenario that unfolded here, it’s amazing to me that two females who don’t ride the Orange Line daily were approached by the same guy (likely)–told us the same “life story” and fit the same physical profile–weeks apart.

      captcha: polite men

  • Just curious–but I thought things like mace and pepper spray are discouraged for women, because they can easily be used against you. Seems like a good point to me, but then what do you do to protect yourself?

    Sadly, I’d just take a cab if by myself late at night, but hell I know girls who have been harassed/hit on/etc by cab drivers. The best defense I’ve learned as a female is to always be able to handle yourself–be sober and aware of your surroundings.

    • Krav Maga is a great self-defense method, and anyone can learn it. There’s a Krav Maga training center in Chinatown.

    • I find the whole “little miss, you’re too weak/frail to use tools to defend yourself” thing a really backwards and offensive mindset. Defensive sprays can just serve as another tool in your toolbox for getting out of bad situations. Your other tools are things like common sense and awareness of your surroundings. In the end it’s of course a personal choice if you use any of these. Plenty of folks go through life just hoping for the best and hoping 911 answers when things go bad [they don’t always].

    • SouthwestDC

      Please don’t take cabs! It’s so easy to be victimized in some way by a sleazy cab driver (and let’s face it, most of them are pretty damn sleazy). The best defense I’ve learned is to not travel anywhere alone at night. You can be as sober and aware as possible and still have horrible things happen to you by someone who’s bigger and stronger and has you captive in a vehicle.

  • This has happened to me as well a few years ago.

    I was on the red line sometime in the evening. Unfortunately, the only people in the train car were me, the man, and a teenager, who was on the other end of the car.

    He sat across the aisle from me, and I noticed what he was doing after a while, but I was too shocked and disgusted to get up.

    I ended up just bolting off the train at the next stop. I’m not sure there’s much you can do besides tell a Metro employee.

  • Here is what you do (worked for a friend). Yell to get other passengers to alert the driver and they can get police to meet the train, in this case the guy was exposing himself and the other passengers blocked him in so he could be arrested. Takes a cool head and helpful fellow passengers but it worked.

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