Dear PoPville – Warning About a Man Recording Video up a Woman’s Skirt

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

“Dear PoPville,

Today (9/27) at approximately 5:40 p.m., I witnessed a man attempting to record a video up a woman’s skirt on the Columbia Heights metro escalator. Roughly 1-2 months ago, I saw the same man acting oddly behind a skirt-wearing woman on the escalator – walking in very close proximity behind her and deliberately widening his shoulders as though he was trying to obscure bystanders’ view – and thought he may have been trying to take photos up her skirt. At the time, I was uncertain, incredulous, and did not want to accuse a stranger of being a pervert when I did not have a clear vantage point.

Not so this time. I recognized him by his gait, appearance, and aggressive attempt to get behind the woman on the escalator today, just like he did 1-2 months ago with the first woman. Today, there was nobody on the escalator between him and me, and he made no effort to conceal his actions. I saw the screen on his smartphone in video mode and witnessed him – clear as day – stick it up her skirt. I yelled at him several times, called him a pervert, and he immediately took off down 14th Street (headed south). I chased him for a short distance then returned to find and notify the still unaware victim.

I later found and notified the victim and we were both at a loss regarding protocol or legal recourse in such a situation. She did not see him and my description of him was not familiar to her. If I’ve seen him twice, readers might see him in the future.

He was white, roughly 6’3”, with slightly shaggy light-brown hair (like a man who is normally kempt but had not been to the barber in a while). He was somewhat pale. He was dressed in chinos/khakis with a patterned, long-sleeve collared shirt and brown leather shoes. Very “white-collar worker” look about him. He was not overweight, but he was not in shape. He has a distinctive gait with somewhat awkward, long strides. I did not see his face but he may have had acne on his neck.

Just FYI for readers who are inclined to blame the victim, she was dressed tastefully.”

This is disturbing on many many levels. Back in mid-Aug. we had reports of another subject (completely different description) taking photos up women’s skirts, also at the Columbia Heights metro. At the time the comments veered off course into a discussion of what is appropriate clothing to wear. That discussion will not be repeated here. What was done then and what was reported here is sick and a clear violation.

I am posting this note as a heads up to folks and to see if anyone has advice about the “protocol or legal recourse in such a situation.” I will also make sure MPD sees this note. I’d also like to thank the OP for doing the right thing – I hope if anyone else ever sees someone filming or photographing up a woman’s skirt, they too will say something. Trite as it may sound, we as a community need to (continue to) watch each other’s backs. I have always been impressed with how strong communities look out for one another.

78 Comment

  • As a woman, does anyone think it would discourage this to stand with my back to the rail while going up the escalator wearing a skirt? I imagine it does, but want to get others opinions.

    • that’s a good idea

    • I would think so. Good idea.

    • the other thing you can do is pull your skirt/dress tight around your legs. whenever i go up stairs/escalator, i hold my skirt ‘closed’ – it can slow you down a bit, but totally worth avoiding some creep trying to get a look. if i am wearing a shorter skirt, i just stand (back to the rail) on an escalator instead of walking.

  • wasn’t me, i swear

  • As far as the appropriate protocol in this case, I think it was followed. If you see something, and can intervene without endangering yourself or anyone else, do something. The OP saw something and did something.

    As far as legal recourse, I don’t think there is anything else to be said other than go to the police and file a police report, or do whatever has to be done to alert them that this person is out there.

    Other options – maybe go to the CH Listserv and post the same warning.

    • “As far as the appropriate protocol in this case, I think it was followed.”

      …except he didn’t call police so they could catch him.

  • Thank you OP! We need more people like you out there.

  • there’s an entire industry of pay to view websites of photos/videos up womens’ skirts. this guy probably sells the videos for profit. be careful out there.

  • So glad, at least, that this OP and the poster from back in August both intervened in these situations. Let’s please continue to watch out for one another!

    As a Columbia Heights resident who wears skirts virtually every day, this stuff disgusts me. In a world with so much readily available, high-quality porn, WHAT ON EARTH is the appeal of taking a photo or video like this? Does the image even look like anything worth watching? Ugh. People are so creepy.

    • I would imagine that the appeal for the person taking the photos or video is the act of taking the photos or videos. The brain responds to thrills and the things that thrill some people’s brains are in some cases objectively creepy and offensive.

      • Yeah, you really can’t explain fetishes. 99 percent of them are bizarre to me, and the one or two kinks I have probably appear to be strange to everyone else.

    • I was just thinking about this, and I wonder if victimization has something to do with it. People photographed for magazines usually do it on purpose and probably get paid for it. But a woman on an escalator is not a willing participant and may not even know it’s happening. So making her a victim may be part of the thrill for the perpetrator. Just a theory.

  • Aren’t there video cameras throughout the CH metro?

    If he’s a repeat offender, maybe it would be worth pulling the footage?

  • Ugh, wtf? This is seriously disgusting behavior.

    PoP can you also forward this to the Metro Police? They really should be doing something about this, since it seems to be a regular thing at the Columbia Heights station.

  • I was the person who had the man take the picture up my skirt back in Aug. I now either avoid the metro late at night if I am traveling alone or walk VERY VERY quickly up the escalator if I am wearing a skirt/dress.

    Regardless of what someone is wearing, this is wrong and there are some very sick perverted people out there. Thank you again to the two citizens who chased after both of these individuals.

    I filed a police report when my incident happened, the police were quick to respond to my call but did not mention going back and reviewing the tapes that are in the metros. I tried talking to a metro employee about it and (shock) he was less than helpful.

  • “we were both at a loss regarding protocol or legal recourse in such a situation”

    Really? I mean, call/grab/flag down the police. Speak to the Metro station manager. It’s not a mystery.

  • andy

    Seriously, go psycho on this guy, call Metro workers, Metro cops, MPD, anybody, because I have a feeling a dude like this is engaged in negative, escalating behavior. Very bad news.

  • At the time the comments veered off course into a discussion of what is appropriate clothing to wear. That discussion will not be repeated here.

    That’s what the discussion ultimately turned into, but that was more or less in response to a number of posts about “rape culture” and other such hyperbole.

    Glad somebody recognized what was going on and put a stop to it.

    • Yeah, if anything is proof that rape culture (or “rape culture” as you so aptly scare-quoted it) is hyperbole, it’s the fact that the OP has seen the same person doing this more than once.

    • Thank you for your input on the not-serious nature of the violation of women, man. I mean, really, when will these broads stop exaggerating?!

  • Disturbing story and thanks to the OP for her response to the incident. As for the “rape culture” canard, NHAve’s response proves Denizen’s point (albeit unintentionally). Hyperbole does nothing to further the discussion or to solve the problem at hand, which is to catch this pervert.

  • The people who talk about “rape culture” don’t believe they are engaging in hyperbole. And when they accuse others of “blaming the victim,” they are rarely interested in the context of which a crime occured. That kind of language usually accompanies rather strident personality traits.

    • hi caballero & denizen,

      I read the thread from the previous incident, and you both had quite a lot to say.

      sexual harassment hits a nerve with a lot of people for varying reasons – they’ve been a victim, a friend has, family member, who ever. it needs to be talked about, and there are lots of view points that you might disagree with.

      but please stop trying to diminish serious, in-depth conversation about sexual harassment as “hyperbole.”

      • Molly,

        I am not trying to diminish “serious, in-depth conversation.” I am trying to diminish the instinctive name-calling that a small subculture of ideologues routinely deploy to villify all men and to pedastalize all women, no matter what the circumstances. And I do know people personally who fit this profile. They tend to be the same people who cry “racist” or “misogynist” if you say something they don’t like.

        • Yeah, that small subculture of 50+% of the population really needs to step aside and let the men decide when women are violated or not.

          • What in the world are you talking about? Really, are you interested in having a discussion, or are you just going to huff and puff with indignation? Frankly, your comment is barely coherent, so I assume it is the latter.

          • Is referring to women as a subculture of ideologues really a way to have a discussion?

            Let me break this down for you. The previous post was employing a tactic called “sarcasm” in order to draw attention to the offensive connotations at play in your accusations. I am accusing you of expressing the wish that women, who experience violence/violation/rape in our culture in a profound way that is inescapable and that men do not understand, stop drawing attention to it and let men decide when women have been violated.

            Frankly, your responses also come off as defensive. Rape culture does not mean that every male as an individual is guilty of rape and is going to jail, so chill.

          • At anonymous at 3:47:

            I didn’t refer to all women as being part of a small subculture. Heck, I didn’t even say the members of the subculture were women. I am referring to a small, ideologically charged group that you, by virtue of your own responses, are apparently a member of. People who hold this point of view aren’t particularly interested in reason or reading carefully. They would rather accuse, just as you have done. And where in the world did I ever talk about rape? I think your accusations are just silly.

          • You did, because it is women who see and experience rape culture and know that sexual assault is not an isolated incident perpetrated by isolated individual perverts, but rather it stems from a larger web of control and power over women’s bodies and women’s sexuality that all women (ask any woman in your life) have experienced on some level, large or small. You don’t have to be an “ideologue” to see through the myth that rape happens when an angry black men jumps out of the bushes at night. And yes, race is an important part of it, whether you want to think so or not. And part of this rape culture is women being demeaned, belittled, or accused of being a member of a radical subculture when they speak to the institutional imbalance of power that enables and adds to this culture of rape, and culture that you, based on your responses, are a part of. That is what rape culture means. Not that every man rapes women each day. But it means that we have a culture that encourages and excuses violations of women’s bodies, and even expects it. Women are objectified, their worth is judged by their willingness to have sex with men, their reproduction is controlled, when they make charges of abuse they are immediately called liars and their character and past sexual experience is called into question. If they are not virgins, not monogomous, not white, they are seen as not credible and even not rape-able at all. Rather than write more, I would be happy to refer you to the volumes that have been written by amazing feminist scholars (read: ideologues) on the topic.

          • At anonymous at 4:13:

            Thanks for enlightening me. I’m sure I have read some of the same “amazing feminist scholars” that you have. Seriously. But the longer I have been away from the academic world (I have a Ph.D.), the more clearly I see certain things. It’s funny how that happens….

          • You obviously do need enlightening on this issue, professor. I am glad to hear that your time away from academia has made you better able to diminish the experiences, needs, concerns, and safety of women. Maybe it’s time to go back.

          • At anonymous @ 4:32

            One of the virtues of becoming older and more comfortable in life, is that you become less angry. It happened to me, and I hope it happens to you too. Good luck.

            p.s., I still have plenty of feminist scholarship on my bookshelves, so I can consult them anytime. Maybe I’ll look over Adrienne Rich tonight….

          • “Angry” is another word used to deny women the legitimacy of their voices and their injuries. If we are angry it is because we have plenty to be angry about–like perverts taking pictures up our skirts and old white men brushing off charges of sexism by calling us a subculture of ideologues. But does anger somehow make a voice less credible?
            Good idea. “Compulsory Heterosexuality” might be a good place to start. Let me know if you need more recommendations. But claiming (truthfully or not) that you have an advanced degree, or having works by feminists on your shelves (or googling them), does not make you more right or your views less a part of the rape culture that we are talking about.

          • Anonymous, you’re full of shit. I’m not trying to oppress you or anything or exert my web of power over you and I’m certainly not trying to rape you. But you’re completely full of shit and you embody every thing that is wrong with modern feminism. My mother, who has done a tremendous amount for issues that I am sure you hold dear and considers herself an extreme feminist, would probably be agitated into a rage by your asinine ramblings.

            I get it, you read a bunch of books. A.) just because they were scholars doesnt absolve them from being full of shit and b.) you learn a lot of stuff in college, but after college you learn that you didnt really learn that much. Dont worry, I thought i knew a lot too. I realized quickly that everything that I learned and other people learned wasnt fact, it was just really well thought out opinion based on very carefully researched facts – but that doesnt mean its always rigth all the time.

        • Uhm, I’m at a lost what context, exactly, is needed to make up-skirting somehow NOT sexual harassment. Pray, please explain the circumstances in which a woman should be totally fine with having pictures taken up her skirt without her knowledge or permission. I’m waiting with baited breath.

          • Good one K. But please, for your sake – be careful! For if you wait too long, you might have oxygen deprivation (and it’s bated, not baited, FYI).

            other than that, cabellero successfully trolled the thread, again.

          • Taking upskirt photos is wrong. Everyone knows that. But making the leap to “rape culture” is offensive to men. And as a man who neither rapes nor takes upskirt photos, my ox is being gored.

          • rape culture is not about men or women. It is about society as a whole. For a man to be offended by a comment on society as a whole is rather hilarious.

            caballero: You are not the ox here, SOCIETY is. As you said upthread, I hope you can get less offended and angry as you get older.

          • i’m a man. i’m not offended cab. stop projecting.

          • “rape culture” is a bullshit term to try to shift blame from the perpetrators onto an entire society or gender. In America, we dont have a culture of rape. I know, I know, the womens’ center at your college told you that like 95% of college men would rape you if they could, but thats just bullshit. Its also offensive. Its the same thing as me saying “95% of women dont know how to drive or do math” or “black people cant swim”.

            I am a fairly liberal person, but dont be fooled into thinking that because you consider yourself liberal, you are somehow open minded.

            This bullshit “rape culture” and “men are evil” thing has to end. It seems every year colleges are turning out more and more women who have a very skewed perception on the world and its fairly disturbing.

            And no, before you say it, I am not saying women shouldnt go to college.

      • Throwing around the term “rape culture” does more to diminish serious, in-depth conversation than calling the user of that term out for their hyperbole ever could.

  • You can report this to Hollaback DC! ( a nonprofit that is helping to fight street harrassment. Several upskirters have been caught and jailed in the NOVA area in response to help from Hollaback DC! They also have posts giving recommendations of how to get the police to follow through on this.

  • Step 1: Log into wmata’s smartcard website to find out what time you swiped out at Columbia Heights.

    Step 2: Inform metro police. They may still have video on file and by knowing the time they may be able to show you the video of who was leaving the metro then.

    Step 3: If the perp registered his Smartcard, which he probably did if he is a white collar worker who gets smartbenefits, then they can get some possible names.

  • Metro police should absolutely be pulling the footage. The good samaritan AND the victims should be harassing police and council members for this information.

  • What law did this guy break? Does this technically count as harassment?

  • The next time anybody witnesses this, don’t say anything to the perp. Simply follow him out of the metro at a distance while calling the police. Follow him until the police meet up with him. I did this once very successfully. Then they can catch the guy and check out his footage.

    • Agreed. I thought the exact same thing after the dust settled. At the time, my instinct was to stop the guy from doing what he was doing. I followed up with Transit Police today. If nothing happens, we’ll get him next time.

    • I am almost hoping that this guy tries to get a photo of me just so I can catch him.

    • austindc

      Good call. My friend chased a guy once while calling the police. The guy erased his footage by the time the police got there. That being said, the metro cameras probably have him on their footage doing this, so that might be all the evidence needed.

  • The responses to this and side conversation about rape culture (and the audacity to put it in quotes) is bringing to mind the recent survey about the race, gender, and age of PoP readers. Which is to say: Thanks for your input on rape, white men!

  • btw, Rapes increased in the District this year.

  • The District has a statute specifically for this type of illegal conduct.

    DC Code § 22-3531. Voyeurism.

    (d) Except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, it is unlawful for a person to intentionally capture an image of a private area of an individual, under circumstances in which the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the individual’s express and informed consent.

    (f)(1) A person who violates subsection (b), (c), or (d) of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 1 year, or both.

    (2) A person who distributes or disseminates, or attempts to distribute or disseminate, directly or indirectly, by any means, a photograph, film, videotape, audiotape, compact disc, digital video disc, or any other image or series of images or sounds or series of sounds that the person knows or has reason to know were taken in violation of subsection (b), (c), or (d) of this section is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.

    • ah

      I think the limitation on this is that there has to be in an area where there is a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’

      A Metro escalator is not that. A starbucks bathroom probably is, however.

      (I realize one might have a reasonable expectation that your private parts are private wherever you are but I don’t think that’s the way the law is written).

  • Jeez, we have one individual pervert taking upskirt photos on the metro, and a handful of commenters turn this into a disucssion about race, class, power, rape, etc. I played a part in it, I admit, but jeez, some people really overthink the situation. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

  • Threads veer based on comments. Not new to anyone on the interwebs.

    You trolled this thread to get the comments you wanted to get. You turned this conversation where you wanted it to go and you kept on keeping on. And now you attempt to back away and take some imaginary high road. No tollymctrollerson. No.

    Please explain:
    1) who these “some people” are.
    2) how does a person “overthink” voyeuristic sexual assault?

  • american feminists need to go visit places where rape actually, not theoretically, is used violently, systematically and repeatedly to subjugate entire groups of people. Go hang out in Somalia for a bit and then come back here to the USA and decide how anti-feminist the u.s. is.

    lot of craziness in this thread.

    up skirt photographer guy is creepy, disgusting and needs to be stopped.

    • If X is really terrible one place, than obviously there is no reason to complain about X in a place where it is less terrible.

      An excellent reasoning mechanism!

      Guess we should not care about the relatively low murder rate in DC, considering how bad it is in Sudan!

      • murder in the sudan is murder just as murder in the usa is murder.

        there is no systematic politically sanctioned widespread rape culture in the usa. dealing with x and y here, which was my point.

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