“The look on her face could only be described as pure terror”


“Dear PoPville,

On Saturday night around 2AM, my boyfriend and I were traveling home after spending the evening out. While walking down the 1500 block of Park Rd. NW, we encountered a young girl who looked like she was in her early twenties. She was being detained by two older men who looked liked like they were in their thirties. It was obvious she didn’t know them. She mouthed to us to please help her, and the look on her face could only be described as pure terror, and perhaps shock. We went over to see what the issue was and the two men just kept saying “she’s drunk, she’s drunk.” We said, she could walk with us and we would make sure she got home safely. She tried to leave with us but the two men wouldn’t let her leave. One of them went as far as to grab my arm to keep us from leaving. At this point we noticed that her jeans were undone and her undergarments showing. Her purse was also open. We called the police. One of the individuals then disappeared into an apartment building, while the other tried to make us leave the girl with him. While my boyfriend was on the phone with the police, the girl was able to get away and just ran in the opposite direction. I’m unsure why she didn’t wait for the police to come, maybe she was in shock. Perhaps she was underage and feared any legal implications. While intervening may have not been the safest thing for us to do, I hope that by doing so we were able to stop something horrible from happening.

In any regard, I thought it was important to share this story because it highlights how important it is for women and men to be smart when traveling home at night. Don’t walk around intoxicated, especially by yourself, especially late at night. Things like this can happen anywhere in the city but if you do live in a transitioning neighborhood or an area with higher crime rates, be smart. Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it can’t.”

68 Comment

  • I commend you for stopping and listening to your gut and helping the woman, even though I do agree with your comment and think you would have been safer just calling the police. Did the police do anything?

  • Bravo to you for stepping in and potentially saving this girls life… did the police show? Did the other guy stick around?

  • So thats it? The girl ran away and no idea who she was or where she went or what the situation was? As much as this is a reason to stop and help, its equally as much a reason as to keep on going and help from as far as possible. If something happened to you and your bf, she would’nt have been a witness.

  • Excellent. Well done. I’m glad to know I have people like you as my neighbor. I sure hope the young woman is okay. Very glad you are both okay, too. What a whirlwind of thoughts that must have been going through your head so good for you acting as you did under pressure and assessing the situation. Also interested in police response, like the first comment.

  • In some ways it shows how the City has improved that you felt comfortable staying on the scene and calling police. That was clearly not a safe choice in the past.

  • Wow…that’s very scary. Sure what you did may not have been the safest option, but I’m very sure any of us would be incredibly appreciative if we were in the same position as the girl and some kind strangers stopped to help.
    Did the police ever show up? What of the two guys? Did they also flee the scene? I imagine they wouldn’t stick around. I hope the girl is ok…

  • What happened when the police showed up? Did they take a report? Were you able to find and identify the guy in the apartment building?

  • I’ll speak on behalf of women and say, “thank you.”

  • thats terrifying.

    it’s wonderful that people like you helped and undoubtedly made a huge difference in that woman’s life.
    if not saved it.

  • I have to disagree with Dreal. Just because someone might not stick around doesn’t mean you should keep walking and call the police from a distance. The girl was obviously in distress. The more attention and the more people around before the police arrive the safer she was going to be.

    Obviously, you have to size up every situation. And of course you run the risk of putting yourself in danger by stopping and trying to help. But it sounds like this situation warranted it. Thank you for stopping and helping.

  • There seems to be a lot of ambiguity in this. Are we to believe this was some averted kidnapping? The girl got slipped the date rape drug? Are these college kids? Pimps and a prostitute?

    • Does it matter? Crime is often messy and chaotic.

      • +1 I completely agree. It doesn’t matter what the ambiguous points are. What matters is that a terrified young woman asked for help, two good neighbors stopped to give their help, and the woman was able to get out of a dangerous situation. It’s thanks to everyday heroes like these that we are finally chipping away at rape culture that is perpetuated when good people say nothing.

        • +1, I see posts like this on occasion and wonder what exactly you’re looking for. this isn’t a newspaper article. Are you looking for a police report? The person is writing about their experience. Do you expect them to have all the background information prior to them arriving??

    • It actually does matter, though it seems like she was the victim. I was visiting Philly one weekend with my parents and we can across a struggle. a man had another in a headlock while his (the headlock-er) daughter was standing off to the side. The headlock-ee was asking for help. I walked up and said that I’m calling the police, assuming that the headlock-er was the aggressor and the headlock-ee was in trouble. The headlock-er said, “Yes! Call the police! I caught him taking pictures of my daughter up her skirt and I have his phone!” I immediately called the police while the main was being detained. Disgusting.

  • Sounds like a potential case of exploitation. I would also reach out to the Fair Girls in DC. They may want some info. as well —> http://www.fairgirls.org/

  • Was this close to the Catholic Charities house across from the Church?

  • TThank you for putting yourself in jeopardy to save another – that’s about as noble as it gets.

    Every time I read that something like this occurred, I have the same reaction – “Where’s the outrage?” Not from the commenters here, but from the DC public at large? Gunned down, knocked out, assaulted – it never stops and the fact that are so many victimizers walking about is pretty hard to comprehend – 30 year old men attempting to rape a young girl in the middle of the street – like, wtf? It should be unimaginable or so rare that it would be news once in a lifetime. Like, how is it that these people can continually do this type of thing without hesitation or remorse? And the pipeline of them keeps flowing…

  • Thank you for your selfless bravery, for being good neighbors and for being wonderful human beings!

  • Good of you to intercede, not so good of you to blame the victim in your final paragraph. Women can get sexually assaulted at any time of day, drunk or sober, so your advice isn’t particularly helpful. I always find it interesting that no one advises men not to sexually assault people.

    • No one advises men not to sexually assualt people? LOL, really? I’m pretty sure most of us learn not to do so. I realize there are lots of creeps out there who do sexually assualt people, but I seriously doubt most of them think they’re doing something innocent.

      • Actually (speaking generally, not to this particular incident) while many of us probably learn not to sexually assault people, an alarming amount of people still do NOT learn that, unfortunately–case in point, some of the high-profile incidents that have made the news recently, often with teenagers, where young women were sexually assaulted while passed out (or nearly unconsious), with a bunch of other kids standing standing around nearby, sometimes even snapping cell phone pictures or filming. Among those types of incidents that DO get reported and prosecuted, look at all the comments from supporters and members of the community arguing that the perpetrators are “good kids” who didn’t do anything wrong other than getting underage-drunk and acting a little stupid. I’m encouraged that more schools and advocates are realizing how important “bystander education” is, but I think there needs to be WAY more of that. I would like to think that people witnessing these types of incidents at parties or whatnot, aren’t just standing by doing nothing because they’re terrible, evil people–but rather that, 1) they misguidedly think it’s “funny” or “no big deal”; or 2) they sense that something is off, but they’re uncomfortable, don’t have the confidence to intervene, and don’t really know how to intervene and what to say or do. And it’s not just an issue among teenagers, either. Yes, random sexual assaults by strangers do happen, but with every woman I know who’s been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, the perpetrator was a known person whom they trusted–a friend or friend of a friend. None of those men–“nice” guys with good corporate jobs and degrees from prestigious colleges–would be considered a “creep” by outside observers, by any means. Yes, there may be things (none of which are guaranteed effective) that women can do to mitigate risk in the meantime, but there needs to be way more social pressure on men (and kudos to feminist men out there who are setting the example) to stop this behavior.

        • An alarming number of people also dont learn that genocide is wrong, blacks are people, you shouldnt thieve, murder, or kill puppies.

          There is evil in this world. Its not blaming the victim to remind people to stay protected from it.

          If you have an alarm system, should you arm it or should not worry about arming it? Because, after all, you shouldnt be advised to alarm it, others should be advised not to steal from you.

          • Interesting points you make, and please note that nowhere in my comment was I accusing the OP of victim-blaming. (I commend the OP for taking action, especially in a situation that put this couple’s safety at risk. I’m so glad they were able to assist this woman and also avoided harm themselves.) Nor am I excorciating any other commenters for victim-blaming. I think most people who give advice about not walking around drunk/late/alone/etc/etc have good intentions and are doing the best they can in an imperfect world. And yes, it is true that there are people out there who engage in genocide, murder, robbery, animal cruelty, and all kinds of other criminal behavior. However, I stand by my points that: it is not just what most of us consider “evil” people who are perpetrating sexual assaults; and that the social norms against other types of criminal behavior are much clearer and more widely-held than those against rape and sexual assault. For example, can you imagine defense lawyers in a robbery/assault trial cross-examinations routinely badgering victims about why they were walking alone and why they had an iPhone in their possession? (Because that’s what rape victims are sure to face, and that’s only IF police and prosecutors decide to collect evidence and decide the case is worth bringing to court.) Sorry, but untill we start to chip away at this dynamic, “advice” to women is only going to go so far.

    • THANK YOU. I was happy to read about bystander intervention until that headdesk moment. It seems that is still the takeaway when I read a post like this on PoP or a neighborhood listserv. Letting those guys know you were watching, attempting to help her walk home and calling the police is helping. From your description of how she looked, she was being violated. Telling her it could all be avoided if she hadn’t been there is NOT HELPING.

      • Do you recommend walking around drunk and alone late at night? Advice isn’t blame – please stop confusing the two.

        • agreed. advice isn’t blame.
          also, no one knows what the hell was going on in this situation.
          the advice may be completely irrelevant.

        • Look at the OP’s phrasing. “I share this because it highlights how important it is for women and men to be smart when traveling home at night.” The primary focus is on the individual to not become a victim and the OP emphasizes intoxication and time of day. The OP does not say that they encourage neighbors to be alert and act as these two did, speaking up and acting when they see something. That would send a message that there are people around who care and are watching. The OP does not call on the police to increase patrols on less-traveled streets or to discourage loitering. The OP’s only takeaway is for individuals to be careful.

          • Fine, I give up. The people probably stepped in to prevent this crime, but don’t squarely blame the criminals. They must have shared this story as a warning to others to not do the same. (sarcasm)

          • Prince Of Petworth

            I believe it also good advice to remind people to be careful. As others have stated not to blame just to remind. I’m sorry you find that so objectionable. I don’t think what you are saying is mutually exclusive to what the OP says.

          • I give a lot of credit to the OP; they assessed the situation and acted to try to help someone. It sounds like their actions prevented further trauma for this woman and hopefully sent a message to the guys that there are community members who won’t just walk on by.

            I’m just really tired of the end of pretty much every blog and listserv post being “don’t be alone & drunk,” the implication being that if you are, well… you should have known something would happen. That’s bullshit and it’s our responsibility to make our communities safer by acting as the OP did, communicating with police, and *supporting* people who do have crimes committed against them without judging the circumstances. That’s it.

          • “I’m just really tired of the end of pretty much every blog and listserv post being “don’t be alone & drunk,” the implication being that if you are, well… you should have known something would happen.”

            No. The implication is that there are a lot of young people moving to this city every day, many of them clueless college kids (like I was not so long ago) who need help understanding their surroundings. Nobody is blaming the victim here, and nobody is saying “well, if she wasn’t drunk this wouldn’t have happened!” But every incident like this serves as a reminder to watch out for yourself.

        • Advice is victim blaming when it comes at the end of a story like this. It recasts the whole story as a cautionary tale for those who don’t follow this advice (“this is what will happen if you walk around drunk at night!”). It implies that the victim was an idiot for not following the so-called advice, and if she had only followed the advice, then she wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted. It’s an “I told you so.” Everyone has something to say about what the victim should have done because we don’t want to believe that even if we follow all the rules we could be victims at any time. What actually stopped the sexual assault in this case was bystander intervention. That’s what we should be advising here, whether by approaching the perpetrators or calling 911 from a safe distance.

      • I think what’s at the root of some commenters’ frustration about the post appearing to victim-blame is that these messages and pieces of advice (when it comes to sexual assault) seem to ALWAYS be directed at women, and never at men. Comparing sexual assault risk-mitigation to unisex/gender-blind robbery/assault/burglary risk mitigation is apples and oranges. If you report a mugging to a police, chances are they’re not going to say things like “Well, why were you walking around with your wallet or with a fancy phone?” or “You were intoxicated, so we can’t bring charges against this person for beating you up and stealing your stuff” or “Well, we found the guy, but he says you *gave* him your iPhone, and it’s your word against his.” (In cases where a police officer has tried to downplay a crime report and it comes to light, it usually provokes widespread outrage.) We act like it’s enough to tell women not to do X, Y, or Z, and there’s nothing else to be done–but it’s not enough, and there is more to be done. Men and boys need to be getting MUCH stronger messages–whether it be from schools, families, pop culture/media or whatever–about what constitutes sexual assault and that it is NOT acceptable. Having said all that, I’m not knocking the OP–they composed a quick dispatch to a blog, not a comprehensive anti-rape education campaign, and given their good intentions, I have no problem cutting them some slack if some if their wording comes off imperfectly. (Finally, I will say that yes, I have seen the “don’t walk around late at night drunk” advice given many times in response to posts about muggings against women and men alike. Again, apples and oranges–sure the PoP commenters may say “you shouldn’t have been walking around late at night!” but you will have a far greater leg to stand on with the police and in court, where it counts.)

        • Where in here did anyone seem to say it’s enough to give advice. I got the opposite from the story. They demonstrated that sometimes you need to DO something quite bold.

          If it had been a story about seeing a woman (or man) being dragged into a van and driven off, and then they say “see – you shouldn’t walk around alone”, then I could agree with you. But this jump to victim-blaming-blaming (?) is ridiculous.

          • I’m not blaming anyone, and I apologize if it came off that way. That was certainly not my intent. Nor am I trying to call out any specific commenter. But on a far broader scale than this thread or PoP, I think the messages out there about how to avoid sexual assault are often one-sided, and for many women, being bombarded with messages that you shouldn’t do this or that gets wearying and disheartening–especially for women who might have done everything “right” and “careful” and have still been assaulted (and there are many). My secondary point was that it’s generally frustrating that many rape-related discussions–maybe not this discussion, but many if not most out there in the world–do tend to stop at “women, don’t do X” My main point was that if some commenters seem like they’re overreacting by criticizing the OP for victim-blaming, I can understand where they might be coming from. I can also see where the OP and where the “it’s not victim-blaming” contingent are coming from. And I disagree that trying to thoughtfully and respectfully engage in a debate is “ridiculous,” as you call it, but everyone’s certainly entitled to their opinion.

        • Thats patently false. Plenty of instances on this site of people being told not to walk around with their ear buds in and their iphones out.

    • epric002

      no victim blaming- re read the paragraph. the OP advises men and women to be prudent and take actions to help ensure their safety.

    • I’m very glad that the OP intervened, but I’m kind of with “Mixed Feelings”; something about the final paragraph left a bad taste in my mouth. (Although I was relieved to see “and men” after “women” in “[I]t highlights how important it is for women and men to be smart when traveling home at night.”)
      I think it’s partly because the original situation seemed so ambiguous (a case of attempted rape? human trafficking? other?). I would’ve preferred a conclusion along the lines of “Everyone, please try to remain alert and aware of your surroundings when you’re out after dark. And if you see something that doesn’t look right, call the police.”

      • See, what I took away from OP’s conclusion is basically the same thing you just said written differently – in other words I’m not quite sure what your objection to OP’s conclusion is. I think people spend too much time parsing language for specific meanings and implications, which to my mind results in greater misunderstanding rather than greater understanding.

        • For me, it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Others had much stronger reactions to it, calling it victim-blaming, so I’m not alone in having some sort of negative reaction.
          It wasn’t clear to me that intoxication had any role in the situation the OP encountered (other than being the excuse with which the two guys tried to explain the woman’s distress). So “Don’t walk around intoxicated” seemed out of place.
          I didn’t start by “parsing language for specific meanings or implications.” I started with a gut feeling of “This rubs me the wrong way,” and then re-read to try to figure out _why_ it rubbed me the wrong way.
          Wording matters. For instance, there’s a difference between “Don’t walk around late at night by yourself” — advice that it isn’t always practical to follow — and “When possible, walk with one or more other people.”

          • Yes, wording matters, because aside from the actual content, some people are just trolling the internet looking for a couple of stray words to get all offended about in the middle of what started off as a serious adult conversation.

          • Maybe some people are indeed looking to get offended. I’m not one of them, and your dismissive attitude is unnecessary and unhelpful (and far more offensive than any well-intentioned but perhaps clumsily expressed advice).

      • Agreed. The situation is highly ambiguous and there isn’t any indication that it began on the street either (i.e. that the woman was walking along and encountered these guys on the street for the first time).

        Given the location where this happened and the fact that the victim ran away and the alleged attacker ran into an apartment building my completely off the cuff guess would be that this was a situation involving an immigrant population and that one or more of those involved may not have legal status in the US. Just complete speculation, but that’s my guess. I know Park Road and those apartment buildings pretty well.

        But whether the woman and men knew each other, or the woman was drunk or not, or the incident began on the street or in a bar or who knows what is all an unknown because the woman bolted. So any safety tips based on the situation would be as much speculation as my pretty spurious assumption that these were immigrants from Central America.

    • OK, I’ll play along. Ahem, “In no way should anyone consider that walking around in an intoxicated state late at night is in any way less safer than walking around sober in the middle of the day.”
      Thank you.

    • I see your point, but disagree to the extent that you need as many faculties as you can muster to defend yourself.

      There will always be rapists.

  • I don’t think the big take-away is to not walk around intoxicated. We hear that all the time on this blog. It’s that the actions of bystanders can make such a huge difference in these situations.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t sound like this woman got herself into trouble because she was drink (nice try on the victim-blaming, though). It sounds like she was assaulted. There is a surprising amount of sex trafficking in the US.

    • You’re so right. Yes, it’s unfair and wrong that the burden for “protecting” oneself from sexual assault falls most heavily on women. And yes, it’s unfair and wrong that this young woman wasn’t able to be safe out on a public street. But I think that, whatever your opinion of the OP’s phrasing/warning/advice, the OP and his/her boyfriend both acted to protect the young woman when she was under attack. Every time someone does this; every time anyone speaks up to say “this is wrong;” every time someone ACTS in the face of this kind of violence, that burden on the victims’ shoulders lightens a little.

  • You did good, dangerous, but good.

  • whatever you don’t like about op’s phrasing, they may have saved this girls life.
    what’d you do on saturday night?

  • Bad things are more likely to happen when you’re drunk in the day and at night. Also, bad things are more likely to happen when you’re sober at night., too.

    Driving, walking, biking, fishing, boating, flying, hiking, and many other activities are more dangerous at night AND when drunk.

    You can add when its icy, when its windy, when its foggy, when you’re high…

    This isnt really up for debate. Its a statement of fact and its not victim blaming.

    Both of my parents still freak out when I drive (sober) late at night because of the increased prevalence of drunk driving around me.

    When they tell me to be careful when I’m driving late at night, are they blaming me as a potential victim?

  • I have lived in multiple medium and large cities on the east coast over the past 10 years and I read more horrifying crime reports from this 30 or so block radius than any place I’ve lived. I am not sure if it is just due to better reporting (Popville, MPD twitter feeds, etc) or there really is that much more crime here than the other cities.

  • I don’t think it’s possible to be certain what was going on. I remember seeing a neighbor physically trying to restrain a teenage daughter, who ended up running away with some loser. Yes, she was trafficked. Awful. Anyway, that’s what I thought of. Once you called the police, any undocumented person, even well intentioned, would split.

    You can’t be sure about the backstory, but what you did was the right thing with limited info. Good going.

  • i hope she made it home okay.

  • I’m surprised someone would jump to the conclusion that she was underage. I’m 31 and wouldn’t stick around for the police either. Have you ever seen how they treat victims of sexual assault?

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