“I am a strong advocate of standing up for oneself when being harassed, but I paid a big price for doing that.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mike Maguire

“Dear PoPville,

Friday night, around 10:45, my husband and I got out of an uber at S and 16th NW. As we stood waiting for the light to change, I noticed a man standing a few feet to the right of me, tinkering with a very large white cell phone (or a very small tablet). It caught my eye because it was an unfamiliar brand and was surprisingly large for someone to be carrying around while out and about on town. When the light changed, I started walking and glanced back over my shoulder. The man had also entered the crosswalk and was now raising his device, held horizontally, in my direction. At first, I thought he might be taking a photo of the Masonic Temple, but it quickly became clear that he was either photographing or videotaping me. He kept angling the device to track my movements. I asked him if he was taking my picture and if he was, would he please stop. He kept the device up, as if recording me and made some comment to the effect of, “so what if I am?” I asked him again to stop. He now angled his body behind a bush, and kept the device aimed at me. I was starting to get really upset about it as we were fairly close to our apartment and I really didn’t want him to take video footage of me going into my building. I again asked him to stop and he shouted, “Cracker!” and started following me again as I kept walking.

I told him that if he didn’t stop following me and taking photos of me, I would call the police. I dialed 911. I know it’s not illegal to take photos of people in public, but he was following me and seemed really aggressive. I hoped that he would either leave, or the police could diffuse the situation. As soon as I mentioned the police, however, he got aggressive and starting yelling at me and accusing me of being racist. From that moment, things escalated very quickly. He shouted something to the effect of, “Oh, you’re going to call the police on me for doing nothing, should I put a ski mask on?” As soon as I raised my phone to my ear, he charged towards me. My husband and I bolted for the door of the closest apartment building. There were several women standing near the call box. I shouted to them to move and get the door open. I ran up and tried to open the door but wasn’t able to get in.

At this point, the man had reached the bottom of the steps leading up to the door- he had pulled on a ski mask. He was maybe 5-6 feet from me. He stood directly in front of me and started yelling that he would kill me. I saw him reach into his pocket and assumed he was pulling a gun or a knife. I took off down a wheelchair ramp, followed by a couple of other people who had been standing at the door. I began screaming as loudly as I could and shouting for help. There were at least 15-20 people in the area. I knew I couldn’t outrun him, and that if he caught up to me on the wide open sidewalk, I would be in serious trouble- so I darted into the street, hoping he wouldn’t follow, or that the exposure of being in front of cars and people would make him stop. I narrowly dodged getting hit by traffic, and flattened myself against a parked car. He then caught up to me. I felt something hard striking my back and was terrified I had just been stabbed (I wasn’t – he just punched me). I took off running again. Fortunately, he decided not to pursue me any further, and ran the other direction down the street.

While all of this was going on, a neighbor who had been standing at the door when the guy ran up in his ski mask and who was also chased down the ramp, started screaming for people to help us. She made eye contact with a group of 5-6 men at the corner of the street and implored them to do something. According to her, they shrugged and said, “Nah, we’re too drunk.” and kept going on their way. Not a single person who wasn’t directly involved offered any type of assistance or even called 911. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only person who called 911 to report the incident. I am certain numerous people heard my screams, and at least two cars were passing by when the man struck me.

I have spent the past couple of days trying to process the entire situation. In the grand scheme of things, this was a fairly minor event (a “simple assault” according to the police). I am incredibly lucky that he did not have a weapon, and that I was able to get out to the street before he could take me down on the sidewalk. Nevertheless, I am incredibly shaken and have been trying to figure out how I feel about the whole course of events. The police were very clear in letting me know that they thought I never should have addressed the man – I should have just kept walking. While in retrospect that clearly would have been the *safest* thing to do, it makes me sick to think that I should stay silent when someone is harassing me- especially when I felt I was being targeted because I am a woman (he definitely wasn’t videotaping my husband who was several feet ahead of me- just me). If all he had done was cat-call or take a single photo- or if this had been a less familiar part of town, or in a dark alley, I might have shot him a nasty look, but I would have kept quiet and hurried on to my destination- but this was familiar territory, a generally safe area, there were plenty of people around, and lots of street lights. I felt protected enough by these elements to call this guy out on his inappropriate behavior. I was hoping that by calling him out, he would be shamed into putting the device down and leaving me alone. It never crossed my mind that by simply asking someone to stop following and photographing me, I would soon fear for my life.

I’m also really upset by the lack of response from people who witnessed all of this and did nothing to help. While I wouldn’t expect someone to jump in and try to physically restrain the guy, I would have hoped people would yell at him to stop, or at the very least, call the police.

I don’t know what the moral of the story is, or how I will respond the next time I feel someone is harassing me, but I thought it was important to share this story. I am a strong advocate of standing up for oneself when being harassed, but I paid a big price for doing that. I am going to have think very seriously about how this will impact my decisions in the future. I urge all of you to think through these things too, as you may also be faced by a similar situation.

More importantly though, I want to encourage everyone to be more helpful to people in distress. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to call 911 if you see something strange or scary.

189 Comment

  • Terrifying. So sorry this happened. It almost sounds like he was provoking you into a confrontation.

  • “At this point, the man had reached the bottom of the steps leading up to the door- he had pulled on a ski mask.”

    … Crazy incident or crazy nightmare?

  • Was the husband even in the story?

    • Yea curious as to what he was up to this whole time.

      • When a posting has received a large number of comments before you arrive at it, it’s generally a good idea to read the comments before replying.

    • My thoughts exactly! Not to victim shame this poor woman, but I’m more upset at the fact that her husband let some man attack his wife and did not come to her rescue….But everyone else is to blame but him. Strange..

  • He should not have gotten upset with you for calling the cops. There was no excuse for him acting this way and I hope they catch him and charge him with assault. But he wasn’t doing anything illegal when he filmed you, or even walked down the street or stood on the sidewalk.

    in case anyone encounters something similar in the future, convenience stores, banks/ATMs, and gas stations usually have security cameras, so they are good places to go if someone’s following you. You can get the incident on tape and there’s usually a clerk who will call 911 for you.

    • She understood he wasn’t breaking the law. And she wasn’t breaking the law by asking him to stop. So it’s not in any sense a “two wrongs” situation.

      It’s not illegal to walk near someone … but it can be illegal to follow and harass them.

    • But is it illegal to stalk someone? I watch too many crime shows, so I’m mostly sure everything I know about crime is wrong. But a sign of a stalker is to film or photograph their targets and follow them home.

    • Just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean its wrong. It was an invasion of her privacy and comfort and was obviously coming from a place of aggression.

  • That is an interesting hole in the story — she was with her husband and asking strange men on the street for help?

    • how’s that a hole? Could her husband need help too? Could she have gotten separated from her husband in the chase? unless she is married Captain America I can imagine he needed help in this situation too.

      • I think the “hole” is that the husband someone disappears towards the latter end of the account. I was expecting more “we” statements showing that she and her husband were running frightened. Maybe they got separated. Maybe she really meant to say “we” but is telling it from her perspective so felt “I” statements work better. Either way, I hope that it’s the latter because that’s pretty crappy if your husband leaves you to handle this situation alone.

      • Her entire point is that no one helped her. I think it’s a pretty obvious hole that the husband she said was steps away isn’t mentioned vis a vis help.

        Captain America? What does that even mean? If her husband would have to be “Captain America” to help in this situation, then what possible sense does it make to bemoan the lack of intervention by bystanders? Were they all superheroes?

    • I also can’t help but wonder what the husband was doing during this encounter. I read a lot of “I” statements over the above and very lengthy seven paragraphs, and don’t see anything about what the husband actually did. Why didn’t he call 911? Why didn’t he defend his wife? Why didn’t he chase down the guy wearing a ski mask who was threatening and chasing his wife? Why didn’t the husband punch the guy when this guy was punching his wife? I don’t mean to detract from this awful story, but I don’t know a single one of my male friends who would leave me to defend myself which is how it *appears* this husband left his wife to fend for herself based upon the account presented above.

      • Aside from call 911, realistically what was her husband supposed to do?

        • Accountering

          Not to play internet tough guy, but if someone was chasing and attacking my significant other, I am going to physically intervene.

          • That’s not internet tough guy, that’s how men have been conditioned to behave in those situations. I’m merely suggesting that, realistically, it might not be the best option and could make the situation significantly worse.

          • I am no tough guy, internet or otherwise, but if my wife is being threatened and chased by someone in a ski mask, I am going to intervene. There’s really nothing to discuss. It may turn out badly for me, but that really doesn’t enter into the equation.
            I, too, am wondering where the husband was.

          • Same here. Not internet tough guy stuff, but it’s my job as a husband to take over the physical part of this encounter. Win or lose, I’ll at least stall the guy til my wife can get away.

          • Acting to protect a loved one has a lot more to do with human instinct than conditioning.

        • It isn’t clear what the husband could have done, but the OP clearly wanted strangers on the street to assist her, and calls them out on it:
          “…I’m also really upset by the lack of response from people who witnessed all of this and did nothing to help.”
          so whatever she expected the strangers to do, the husband could have done.

    • I believe it was a neighbor who was asking passersby for help, not the OP.
      I wonder if the neighbor might have been more successful if she had screamed “Call 911” rather than “Help us” (or “Help them,” or whatever it was). I keep reading that one way to counter the “bystander effect” is to give people specific instructions: “You — call 911.” Still, the response from the group of guys is disappointing.
      “While all of this was going on, a neighbor who had been standing at the door when the guy ran up in his ski mask and who was also chased down the ramp, started screaming for people to help us. She made eye contact with a group of 5-6 men at the corner of the street and implored them to do something. According to her, they shrugged and said, ‘Nah, we’re too drunk.’ and kept going on their way.”

      • Yes, I agree. As a bystander it can be hard to understand the context when something like this happens. Letting someone know that 911 needs to be called is helpful.

    • Hi-

      I answered this below, but just wanted to say something here too. My husband was already fairly far from me when the altercation began. He had been walking ahead of me at the time. By the time my husband started heading back in my direction, the guy had started charging at me. We got separated in the chase.

  • What was her husband doing during this entire exchange?

  • Was your husband attacked as well? I think that if my wife had this happen to her I would be the one in trouble not her. Hope you’re both ok and sorry this happened to you!

  • I hate to ask, but where was your husband while this crazy guy was chasing your around????

  • I would never, ever assume someone is calling the police without specifically being asked/prompted. Ask people directly to please call the police. Same goes for a first aid situation, never assume someone is getting help. This is awful and clearly crossed the line into all sorts of criminal behavior.

  • Lesson learned. Even with husband/boyfriend/male friend accompanying me I would never have opened my mouth. They could get seriously hurt or even killed just for defending me, all because the jerk took a pic.

    • +1 It’s just not worth it. Also, I wouldn’t do anything because I know my husband would go crazy trying to protect me.

      • Yep. Mine too and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. I don’t see how her husband defending her honor or otherwise involving himself could have possibly helped the situation. Unlike some commentators, it appears the husband might have been smart to show restraint. She went home with a live and uninjured husband, whereas I might not have been as lucky.

        • It’s not defending her honor- it’s defending her from physical attack.

          • At first it wasn’t. It escalated. I suspect that if the aggressor did that to a woman, he would have been significantly more aggressive toward a man, who may not have been in a position to defend himself any better than his wife could have defended herself. I’ve seen situations quickly get out of control when men feel like they have to step in, rightly or wrongly. You never know when someone has a weapon.

          • I agree on this statement. There’s showing restraint from escalating the situation, and then there’s letting someone else get physically attacked with what could have been a deadly weapon. Even as a woman, I would have had a “If my SO is going down, I’m going down with them” mentality in that case.

    • Yes, it’s best to avoid confrontations when possible (though it doesn’t seem like OP had too much of a choice).
      One of my best friends is a rabid fan of a certain New England sports team that has been exposed as the cheating cheaters that they are. I, on the other hand, am a lifelong fan, and season ticket holder, of the long-time rival of Cheatriots (a team with a noticeable lack of success in my lifetime – and I’m getting on in years). She has been after me for go up to a game when our teams play each other, and I have unequivocally refused. She’ll be decked out in her fan garb, the Cheatriots will be up by 2 TD, she’ll start cheering, some Jersey-Shore wannabe from Staten Island, fueled by equal parts $11 beers and anabolic steroids, will call her a See You Next Tuesday, I’ll shout something back, and before long, I’m getting evicted from the stadium with a bloody nose and a broken jaw, and my tickets will be revoked. No thank you.
      Tl;dr – gotta be smart.

    • No, that is effed up. Women should be able to stand up for themselves without being fearful of an attack.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Sometimes what one (regardless of their gender) should be able to do does not matter, because what one is actually able to do is more important at the moment. Context matters, and I wasn’t there and thus can’t really comment on what I would have done in the OP’s situation, but I’m a guy, and I once damn near had my head ripped off by a much stronger guy who I suspect might have been in some sort of drug-induced rage when I made a rather feeble effort to “stand up for myself.” Not to say that I never would never stand up for myself now, but that experience taught me that there are times when it fairly obviously isn’t going to work out to be worth it.

  • Not trying to be a jerk, but the husband seems oddly absent from the description of the events. I mean if a very short guy is coming at you and just put on a ski mask (in June), your husband should have hit him. Or at the very least taken defensive steps so that you did not feel that it was necessary to run into the street… Hind-sight is always 20/20, but considering the post is about lack of responsiveness from observers, it seems only fair to assess the husband’s response as well.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I wonder too but like to give people the benefit of the doubt in the absence of complete information. Perhaps he is physically disabled or something. And I’m not sure where you’re getting the part about the guy being very short from. I see no physical description of the attacker at all except for the part about the ski mask.

    • Hit him? What if he had a knife or a gun? It seems really stupid to further escalate a situation with someone who is clearly unstable.

      • Yes, he might have had a knife or a gun. So, the choices are (i) hit someone wearing a ski mask who might have a knife or gun because he is chasing my wife, or (ii) not hit him, and allow him to continue chasing my wife. The “choice” is (or should be) obvious.

  • Not to pile on here but that was my same thought.

  • Sorry this happened, but where was your husband in all this mess? I lost him after you left the uber. While it’s certainly your right to ask him to stop, after 2 no responses, I’m unclear why you continued beyond the sense of safety your neighborhood gives you. If it’s any consolation, I’d have helped you without question.

  • The husband’s role is unclear, but let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. My natural inclination is to push back, too, and it’s terrifying how quickly that caused this situation to escalate.

    • Same here. I know it’s a terrible idea to confront an aggressive stranger at night, but I can see myself doing it because that’s how I respond to conflict. I’m lucky enough to have never been in this kind of situation, but chances are that someday it will, so I know I need to work on my restraint, bite my tongue, and just walk on… and then vent that night on Facebook or PoPville.

  • First, glad you weren’t harmed.
    Second, I think that this is a legitimate reason that concealed carry should be move available. Complain all you want about increase in availability of guns, but I fully support taking down a guy that is willing to chase you into traffic and get close enough to strike you.

    • Given her state of mind through all this, I think you’re expecting a lot from someone–like being a crack shot.

      • Yeah, maybe I should clarify that I don’t mean everyone who wants to carry should just be able to. Rigorous training should be required, so that when you face a life-or-death situation, you are able to rely upon your training to ensure that YOU are not the one coming out of the situation dead.

    • You seriously think MORE guns would have made a situation like this better?

      • Yes.

        (however, “more guns” doesn’t mean that a big box of guns is dropped in the middle of the street, and whomever would like to take one gets to. It means that people who take appropriate training can carry without the endless DC bureaucracy that we have now to do so.)

    • This is a ridiculous comment. If conceal/carry were more widespread, than it would be more likely that the other guy would have a gun too. The last thing we need is more shootouts in our streets that are being done with legally carried guns.

    • Concealed carry means he could have a concealed weapon too. This isn’t old-timey Deadwood- we really don’t need duels on our streets.

      • Absolutely. However, someone who is willing to engage in the activities described is not going to worry about whether or not their gun is legal. they’re just going to carry it anyway.

        • I have lived in conceal carry states before. Your utopian fantasy of victims defending themselves against shady criminals is really not how it typically works. Rather, there are a lot of accidental shootings and dead black and brown boys that “looked suspicious.”

  • I’m so sorry this happened to you and it does give me food for thought as a woman walking the streets of DC. I think when things like this happen, our fight-or-flight response comes in hard and fast. It’s so scary when you know you’re being followed and it’s so INFURIATING when you’re told to just sit back and take it by authority figures. I completely get where you’re coming from. I don’t really have any advice but I’ve been in similar situations where I’ve been threatened and didn’t respond even though every inch of my being told me to do what you did. And what happened to you is one of my fears and that infuriates me too! Why can’t we just walk down the street without fear of harassment and being photographed and catcalled? Why do we have to put up with this crap level of treatment and take it as a part of “just being a woman”? Again, no real advice but know that I’m so sorry and I feel where you’re coming from.

    While I do wonder why your partner didn’t seem to assist more, I would have asked this question if it was a female friend as well. There’s power in numbers or at least help in extricating yourself out of these situations. Hope you are doing better.

  • it’s like the loneliest planet part II.

  • Sorry this happened to you. Classic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bystander_effect . The way to beat it is use your tools and resources to get ahead of things like calling 911 and/or busting out your own camera before you risk appealing to the reasoning of strangers, and when you need help, issue orders and commands to individual bystanders to force them to feel the guilt/responsibility of inaction. 20/20 hindsight of course, but I hope you stay the kind of person who expects there will be help and stands up for yourself because we all need people like you.

  • You were right to stick up for yourself! The police telling you that you should have remained silent is blaming the victim. It’s not illegal to film a person in public, but what he did could be considered stalking as you said he kept following you. You had every right to tell him to stop. The police can’t blame you for telling you to stop, would they tell that to a rape victim?

    • HaileUnlikely

      Some people value asserting their rights more highly than they value getting home alive; some people do not. Neither of those is “right” or “wrong,” and it is usually unproductive to attempt to convert anybody from one point of view to the other.

  • Also I REALLY recommend you invest in some PEPPER SPRAY

    • Illegal in DC.

    • Pepper spry only works if you can execute it effectively. You have to stand close enough to your aggressor and point it in the right direction. If you miss you have just been standing still and your aggressor is now close you and could potentially use the spry ageist you. It is very difficult in times of stress to use it correctly and effectively.

  • The problem with screaming is that a lot of women run around shrieking for fun. So it’s hard to tell what’s a legitimate call for help.

    • *must not feed troll*
      *must not feed troll*

      • Was that meant for someone else? It’s a legitimate concern of mine that if I were ever attacked someone would think I was just flirting with my boyfriend or being drunk.

        • The statement “a lot of women run around shrieking for fun.” Seriously? And isn’t it usually possible to distinguish bachelorette-party squealing from fear-related screaming?

          • I once heard someone being attacked. There is no doubt in my mind that they were screaming for their life. It was blood curdling. Terrifying. She was being hit around the head with a brick in the alley behind my house.

        • This is a real problem. I was mugged once. When I went upstairs and saw my neighbor, his response was something along the lines of, “oh, I heard you scream, but I thought it was just drunk college girls screaming…” (we lived by a university at the time). The point is, don’t scream unless you want people to come for help. And if you hear screaming, don’t assume it’s some drunk silly person.

      • gotryit

        I don’t agree with that poster’s statement, but I have rushed outside thinking someone was in trouble, only to see some @&%#@ screaming bloody murder but just playing around.

        • Fair enough.

        • I hope your negative experience doesn’t mean you stopped trying to distinguish between the two though. You could be someone’s savior one day.

          • gotryit

            No, not stopped. I’ve called the police / testified in court in one case (thankfully police got there fast enough that I didn’t have to step in physically). But it is desensitizing. Consider that if you’re in a real situation (if you can even think in the middle of it), you may need to continue screaming bloody murder for a bit before someone gets that it isn’t playing around.

          • I meant it as encouraging, my apologies if it came across as accusatory. It is rather desensitizing to live in the city and I often hope I’ll be able to tell the difference if I’m ever in that boat. Not to mention if I’m ever the victim I hope I have enough mind to be very clear in my needs (ie: it’s been suggested she should have just shouted to particular people to call the police, but who knows her state of mind? I probably would have just been blackout upset, just shaking and crying, which is not helpful).

        • I live on a busy street, near bars, and I hear shrieking multiple times a night, especially when it’s warm out. Sometimes it’s followed up by laughter, or I can see the horsing around from my window, but other times I have no idea. One time it actually was an assault, and I felt terrible that I did nothing, but the alternative is lots and lots of false alarms. FWIW I try not to scream unless I’m in trouble (or someone’s tickling me, but I can’t help that). Wish others would do the same.

          • Agreed. I don’t even understand how screaming is a reaction for people, even when something scares the &#^! out of me my reaction is to freeze entirely. But I’ve had more than one friend get rescued by people who took a moment to figure out that their screaming wasn’t out of fun and I’m so grateful to them.

          • Accountering

            Lots and lots of false alarms is fine. Calling 911 for “screaming” just means an officer is going to swing by. This is a good thing, and if it is a drunk 22 year old, nothing will come of it and the officer will continue on his way. Lets let the dispatchers prioritize things, and call in things when in doubt.

          • “This is a good thing, and if it is a drunk 22 year old, nothing will come of it and the officer will continue on his way. ”
            Well, unless the drunk 22 year old happens to be black… as much as I hate the unnecessary screaming I wouldn’t want someone arrested over it.

          • I’ve learned the hard way that even when shrieking is followed by laughing, it’s not a sign that everyone’s having fun. When it happened on my block, I ignored it, and it turned out a group of kids were beating up another kid. And laughing while doing so. So know I call even if it ends up being a false alarm.

        • Me, too, unforunately.

        • This has happened to me numerous times, usually on weekend evenings but sometimes during the week too. I guess I haven’t learned to distinguish between the “help I’m in trouble” shriek from the “ha ha ha I’m having so much fun I’m going to wake up the whole neighborhood” shriek, maybe because I so rarely hear the former. I ALWAYS check it out, and it ALWAYS turns out to be a woman with friends, maybe drunk or maybe not. (Men can be loud too, but generally not in a way that sounds like they’re being attacked.)

          • Ugh, who are these shrieking women? I wouldn’t be able to stand being out with them.

          • I don’t mean to sound callous to victims, but this sounds like a legitimate point to me. I live a bit off 14th street and if the windows are open you’ll easily hear screaming/shrieking 10 times a night. I have never once — in hundreds of observations — seen it be anything but drunkenness. People who say to call the police every time are not being realistic. (Obviously, this may be a different situation in more residential areas.)

          • Emmaleigh504

            @ajr it’s the Screaming Jennifers

        • ChenChen

          me too, I ran out of my 1st floor Petworth apartment b/c I heard girls screaming in what I thought was terror outside only to find that they were messing around with their friends.

    • God, I know. Women can be so annoying, but where was her husband in this? If she was in trouble, he should have asked for help so bystanders would know that they needed to take the situation seriously. I mean, if a man is asking, it’s not just another woman being hysterical.

  • This is absolutely terrifying and I am so very sorry that it happened to you. I am in tears reading this over how self-absorbed everyone in the area was during all of this. I vow to you to pay more attention to my surroundings going forward for my own safety as well as for the safety of others. Perhaps other readers can make this vow themselves instead of focusing on the minute details of the entire incident.

    • Ugh agreed! Everyone is focusing on the least important detail of the whole story. There are tons of reasons why her husband might not have had an active role in this story. I will say I encounter some crazies on the streets of DC and while I will probably say something to some creeper in a bar, I will not on the streets of DC. We were walking recently and this man just started cussing at us: “F!ck you! You stupid f!cking blah blah.” His tone and was scary, but it was very obvious he was not mentally there and was basically doing this to everyone. I just kept walking.

      • Crazies on the streets are the norm for sure and I ignore them too but I can’t say I would have ignored this guy because it strikes me as straight-up stalking. Plus letting him know you’re on to him could have made the difference in having him disappear. As for the husband, she did mention he was a few steps ahead and I could see this situation happening with my boyfriend and I – we frequently get out of an Uber/taxi together but take off in two different directions due to a previously planned quick trip to the corner store, move the car to other side of the street, etc. His precise location seems so not the point to me!

        • I tend to ignore people on the streets, but I agree — would have been hard to ignore this guy. I do think though that I would have kept walking as quickly as I could towards people/buildings I could get inside of while calling the police WITHOUT announcing the call.

      • “Everyone is focusing on the least important detail of the whole story.”
        I’m not sure I agree with this. OP is decrying the fact that total strangers didn’t help her – but apparently her own husband didn’t, either. Not sure it’s reasonable to expect strangers to put their lives in danger when your spouse doesn’t. Yes, there might be a good explanation why he is absent from half of the story – but we don’t know what it is.

        • I just don’t think it’s helpful. So what if he was in a store oblivious, chasing after them himself, or standing there useless? The point that she’s making is A) she’s questioning whether she should have spoken up, and B) she’s disappointed that strangers were so uninterested in assisting someone in need. She reached out for support from the community once and that ended poorly and now she’s doing it again. I don’t want her to regret this as well.

          • “she’s disappointed that strangers were so uninterested in assisting someone in need.”
            Once again, that’s precisely the point. Apparently strangers were uninterested in helping her – but so was her husband (or so the story makes it seem). Perhaps the assailant flattened him too (although I can’t help but believe that would have made it into the recounting). We’re not owed any sort of explanation, of course, but it’s entirely reasonable to ask why OP is holding complete strangers to a higher standard than her husband. (Maybe she’s not – but if you write a story with an obvious hold, you can’t be surprised when people remark on the hole.)

          • Couldn’t agree with this more and cannot believe how many comments here are focused on the husband versus the actual issue facing the community.

            DCD “her husband was uniterested in helping her” is an absolutely ridiculous take away from this story. None of the bystanders who chose to do absolutely nothing to help this poor woman knew whether or not she was married or had a man with her nearby. It is completely irrelevant. Stories like this are what makes me want to leave DC, stories like this are commonplace. A good friend of mine was hit by a car in the pedestrian crosswalk in Dupont circle in front of Zorbas/Darlington House at 7pm on a Saturday while the patios were full of patrons and not a single person got up to help her or call 911 on her behalf.

          • *Apologies, originally misposted one below

            Couldn’t agree with ajr more and cannot believe how many comments here are focused on the husband versus the actual issue facing the community.
            DCD “her husband was uniterested in helping her” is an absolutely ridiculous take away from this story. None of the bystanders who chose to do absolutely nothing to help this poor woman knew whether or not she was married or had a man with her nearby. It is completely irrelevant. Stories like this are what makes me want to leave DC, stories like this are commonplace. A good friend of mine was hit by a car in the pedestrian crosswalk in Dupont circle in front of Zorbas/Darlington House at 7pm on a Saturday while the patios were full of patrons and not a single person got up to help her or call 911 on her behalf.

          • @harvardstlady – based on the initial description of the event, it isn’t ridiculous at all (as evidenced, if nothing else, by the numerous people who thought the same thing). In the first recounting, OP was with her husband, had a confrontation, wan *with her husband* to the closest apartment, and was then chased by a masked man into traffic and assaulted – and there’s no mention of the husband’s reaction to the assault and chase. So first, your statement that, “None of the bystanders who chose to do absolutely nothing to help this poor woman knew whether or not she was married or had a man with her nearby. It is completely irrelevant.” appears to be inaccurate. If you think it’s irrelevant, fine – but I, and apparently many others, disagree. Of course, now that OP has clarified the answer to that question, it’s a moot point – but it wasn’t based on the first post.
            However, I do get a little tired of the “this is why DC is so bad” meme. If you think any major city is any different, you’re deluding yourself. But, if you’re so unhappy here, don’t let the door hit you, as the saying goes.

        • Agreed with dcd.

        • Right, and I guess I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. As someone else mentioned, he could be disabled. I know some guys who avoid any and all altercations. I’d like to think they’d step in if a woman was being assaulted, but never know. He could have taken a different route as AJR mentioned. I mean we don’t know, yet everyone’s question is where is the husband? Maybe it is because of what A non-Amus mentioned. Although I find it surprising that it escalated to the guy assaulting her.

      • I think the reason people are focusing on that aspect is because it is surprising. Are we surprised by (1) crazies on the street, (2) drunk bystanders, (3) uninterested bystanders, (4) crazy people who will get aggressive if confronted? I’m not. But I am surprised/perplexed by the absence of her husband in the events, because, as her partner, I would expect him to sort of be front and center with her. Maybe there is a perfectly reasonable explanation, but don’t act like people are weird for speculating/asking.

  • I am also wondering what happened to the husband…I have been in a few situations where a guy has tried o harass me…mainly when I used to go out to bars and guys didn’t get that “no thank you I am not interested” means no…in those situations where people got aggressive I was usually out with a guy friends and/or my brother and they always defended me and I am sure if that situation were to happen now my boyfriend would stand up for me.

    But being a woman one should really think before reacting…just this past Friday as I was walking down H St from the Argonaut two guys made crude remarks at me as I passed by and when I continued to walk by and ignore them one yelled “bitch look at me when I am talking to you”…it took a lot of self control to not turn around and yell “excuse me?!?!”…I hate that people can be so disrespectful to people they don’t even know but I value my safety more so I kept walking quickly

    • Agree. What kind of man was she with that he would not come to her immediate defense?

    • While certainly unnerving in the moment, I can’t help but think that a guy screaming “bitch look at me when I’m talking to you” is a deeply pathetic, impotent, sad sack of a man just screaming for anybody to validate his unnecessary existence. I’m not being empathetic here, either – in fact, I’d want to get my “no fucks given” swagger on if somebody were to yell at me like that. The modern world has no place for such men.

  • I think the cops were right. There are many situations where people are looking to get a rise out of someone, esp. if they’re drunk or otherwise not functioning well which probably was the case. Taking a pic, however weird, was something you probably escalated into a bigger deal. Think of it as being like defensive driving.

    Like others, I wonder where the husband was in all this and why he didn’t call 911.

  • I wonder what he would have done if the OP had started filming him with her phone.

  • This is an awful story. But all I can think of is that you shouldn’t mess with crazy or criminal. I have absolutely NO intention of blaming the victim. However, there’s a fine line between sticking up for yourself and getting yourself in trouble with the wrong kind of person. My approach to sketchy people on the street (you should have a gut feeling on who these people are) is that I do everything to avoid contact with them. Yes, I’ll make eye contact for safety reasons, but I’m not going to engage them or let them engage me. If I see them in groups, I’m going the opposite way. if I see them crowding a metro station or a train, I’m going elsewhere. The key for me is, staying away- no matter how inconvenient or bad it looks. If this guy had been taking photos or video of me, I’d be hightailing it out of there. Again, I’m not talking to a person like this- I’m getting away from the threat. I schedule my grocery trips around certain times of the day to avoid sketchy people. That’s the way it is. Very sorry to hear of your nightmare experience. I’d be shaken up for a long time after that.

  • Who cares if she didn’t document the story properly explaining the husband’s whereabouts throughout, you all are missing the point and doing what you normally do picking out insignificant details to harp on and not concentrating on the fact that a lady was attacked in your neighborhood and NOBODY helped!

  • I am good-sized man. I would have ignored the man and removed myself from the situation as quickly as possible, I.e., walked/run briskly away. I don’t see that as “being silent” it’s just a survival tactic. We are not in the school yard anymore, we are in the real world which is messy and unpredictable and not always fair.

    • gotryit

      I don’t follow. You wouldn’t have engaged the aggressor? Or you wouldn’t have stepped in to help your SO?

      • What’s so hard to follow? MarkQ is stating that he would not have engaged the aggressor, in spite of being a physically large man who could defend himself. His point: not all fights are worth fighting because of “the unpredictable” (i.e., guns, knives, and general insanity). The most rational course of action is to ignore and remove yourself from the situation – whether you’re a man or a woman. Whether you’re an expert martial arts practitioner or barely 100 pounds when wet.

  • This comes from a girl whose dad checked every door and window every night before bed in our safe little suburban home: Lots to think about here. First is don’t ever assume you are in a safe place. If it’s public anyone can be around you. Second always assume that when you confront a bully that they can and will come back at you harder than you can. You better be ready for it. Think about where you are and what you will do if confronted. This guy obviously knew what he was doing and knew what the law would do to him. I think he might have the mask on to avoid security cams. It’s possible that getting someone to react was his entire agenda. Just pissed at the world and waiting to take it out on someone. I understand your desire to say something, but choose your battles. Were you in party clothes? by that I mean high heels that are impossible to run in? Might be a bad time. If you worried that you were close to home, think a minute about where else you might go. A nearby business that’s open (black cat bouncer? restaurant valet?). Women walking at this time of night ALWAYS be thinking about this. ALWAYS. If you are wearing party clothes will you feel safe running in them? DC is a fun city but there are dangers. And to those of you blaming the dude-quit relying on chivalry and take care of yourselves.

  • I am so, so sorry this happened to you. Recently, I came to the same conclusion as you, unfortunately: what is right (standing up for yourself) is not always what is safe.
    In my case, I flipped a guy in an SUV off while I was walking my dog because he was honking his horn and shouting lewd things at me. He then made a u-turn and blocked traffic to continue shouting at me, and I had to appeal to a neighbor to help me cross the street to safety. He drove back around by me twice more. When I finally thought he’d found something better to do with his time than stalking and threatening me, I saw him waiting for me, 40 MINUTES after the initial encounter. I was so frightened at that point, that I asked another neighbor to walk me home.
    Street harassment is wrong. It is real. It can be dangerous. Sadly, as in your case, the only person really looking out for you is you.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Agreed. I’m a dude, not particularly small, and have some martial arts training. A long, long time ago, I was also in my early 20’s and had too much testosterone pumping through my body. I once tapped on the side door of a car as it rolled through a stop sign and cut me off while I was on foot. A guy built like Mike Tyson and every bit as crazy got out, charged at me, and started swinging. He probably had about 100 pounds on me and was acting like he was on PCP or something. I was just barely able to outrun him and get away. F*ck testosterone and f*ck taekwondo, I’m pretty sure he would have killed me if I didn’t successfully outrun him. My wife used to flip off drivers or slap the sides of cars when she felt that the driver was insufficiently courteous to her. Recalling that incident from well over a decade before we met, I ask her not to do that.

    • Man, that’s scary! 🙁

    • I feel like that’s attempted assault with a deadly weapon, and the police could have done something. But then I’m worried about pressing charges, because then this person has your address and can retaliate after their slap on the wrist.

  • He had a ski mask with him, it was his intention to assault and rob someone that night.

  • It is 100% unacceptable for the husband to be so absent in this story. I’ll tell you that no man I have ever dated would be idle in this situation. From the beginning, they would have said something if my own request was shut down.

    • HaileUnlikely

      Perhaps he did intervene and got his ass thumped and she elected to leave that part out, not realizing that the implied non-involvement would be every bit as embarrassing. Or perhaps he is physically disabled and very obviously unable to intervene. Who knows. Let the OP clarify, or not, as she wishes.

    • I am really shocked by all of the “Where was the husband?” responses to this. Who cares? Maybe he’s physically disabled in some way. Maybe he was chasing the guy. Maybe it just was not a relevant part of the story. I am pretty sure the last reason the OP posted this story here was to hear her husband called all manner of names and have his character condemned by a bunch of commenters expressing faux concern.

      I witnesses a similar confrontation downtown last week. A person with obvious issues starting punching a tourist for absolutely no reason. I and others yelled at the guy and tried to distract him. He finally turned on us, punching the guy next to me in the face. I called 911, and meanwhile some other passerbys managed to subdue the guy. It was terrifying. Until you are in that situation, you have no idea how you will react, so spare all of us your judgment and tales of how you would act if your wife were similarly attacked. I always thought I would do more, but I cannot tell you how helpless and terrified I felt in the moment. Considering that even just yelling at the guy nearly got me punched in the face, I get why people do not intervene.

      What happened to this poster is awful. I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing your story, so the rest of us can get some real life insight into what can happen if you engage with such wackos. Of course, you had no idea he was a wacko, instead of the average miserable pervert who has no compunction about harassing women on the street but will turn tail as soon as confronted. For better or for worse, the latter are much more common, so I may have made the same assumption you did. Sigh.

      • Thank you. Quite frankly, I’m really upset by all the husband-shaming comments. I understand them, but I do feel like they miss the point of my post. I was trying to raise awareness about a situation and say that people should help others. I should have explained his absence better, but I didn’t think people would focus on the issue.

        • I don’t think (most) people are trying to “shame” your husband — just perplexed as to why you would expect bystanders to help when your own spouse (apparently) didn’t help.
          Your answer clears it up.

        • I’m sorry this happened and thanks for writing in. I’m gonna move this story around to my wife and our friends that live in the general area and let them know to be watchful. I’m also sorry that so many on PoP are being idiots by suggesting this is in any way your fault or your husband’s.

  • There are lots of creeps, weirdos, mentally ill people, etc. out there. Even as a guy, I’ve gotten yelled at and harassed by strangers in cities. It’s really tempting to respond, but ultimately, whatever they’re saying is just a reflection of their own problems. Engaging them won’t help them and it won’t help you. If the OP felt in danger, that is a different situation (and it seems like she reasonably might have felt threatened), but as people have said, you’re probably not ever going to make yourself safer by engaging. Cross the street, start dialing 911 (without announcing this to the creep), walk into a store, or whatever. Getting into it with some weirdo or aggressor is probably exactly what they want.

    Regarding the husband issue, it is true (as many people have stated) that we don’t really know the facts. It is also true (as many people have stated) that his absence is conspicuous, and it’s not unreasonable to ask about his role in the incident.

  • This is so frightening. I am so sorry this happened so close to your home — a place you feel safe. Thanks for sharing your story.

    As a woman, I always assumed the men in my life (especially the physically imposing ones) would defend me in this kind of situation. A male coworker (and good friend outside the office) said a while back that he would not come to my aid and he would not even come to his wife’s aid for fear of escalating the situation! I was shocked. I think most men say they would help, but then in the end might not. I suppose at least it’s helpful he is honest up front?

    • HaileUnlikely

      An astronomical body of psychology research has demonstrated time and time again that human beings are very very poor at predicting what they would do in situations that they have not actually faced.

      • Agree with this. I would like to think, if I had been a bystander observing this situation, that I would have intervened – but I can’t say for sure.
        I CAN say for sure I would have intervened if I had been the husband. OR rather, I’m not prepared to entertain the possibility that I wouldn’t have intervened is OP was my wife.

    • You know what makes someone a hero? A person who is not running plus/minus sheets in their head when they think of whether it is prudent to step in to defend someone. They just do it, consequences be damned. Your coworker was a loser, but at least he could say it to your face (so I guess he gets some credit for that). Maybe it’s because I come from a Marine family and the culture that runs along with it, but I couldn’t imagine that I could ever respect a man who wouldn’t defend his family. A man that would just stand there as his wife ran into oncoming traffic- I can’t even fathom the idea. It goes against nature- the very grain of everything I know. I’m hoping there is a legit reason for the OP’s husband’s conspicuous absence (i.e., he’s disabled).
      That said, many of us have a lot to lose when it comes to engaging these kinds of people. That’s why I think it is always best to AVOID any contact or engagement with them. However, this lady was past the stage of avoidance.

  • I’ve really had it with aholes, like this perp described in this incident, playing the race card any time someone confronts or challenges them. What’s up with this ridiculous sense of entitlement? Do some people think they can get away with anything because they happen to be a minority? It certainly seems that way when you happen to be caucasian and the perp is not and they accuse you of being a racist whenever you confront, challenge, or call out their inappropriate and/or aggressive behavior. Is this just the double-edged sword of political correctness run amok? Whatever it is, I’m really tired of it but don’t think there’s a whole lot that can be done about it. *sigh*

    • gotryit

      Yeah, it could be some grand theory like that having to do with PC or something. Or he could just be an aggressive low life. I’m going to go with the simple theory here, but you’re welcome to your own opinion.

    • Gimme a break. He was not playing the race card. He was trying to intimidate and provoke her. There’s a difference.

      • I’ve really had it with aholes who try to turn something an obviously mentally unstable person says into commentary on minorities and their sense of entitlement.

        • MRD- I agree that there is a difference. I also agree that the perp played the race card in an attempt to intimidate and provoke and not because he genuinely felt discriminated against. Mentally unstable or not, using the race card to simply intimidate, provoke, or silence critics is wrong; just as discriminating against someone because of their race is wrong. That’s the point here.

          Gerald- I’ve witnessed several encounters where the perp, who was obviously not some mentally unstable person, got aggressive and played the race card when another person confronted, challenged, or called out their inappropriate behavior. Instances of actual racial discrimination notwithstanding, people who do this either feel they are entitled to behave however they please and that anyone who feels otherwise must be a racist; or they accuse someone of racism to distract from and avoid having to take responsibility for behavior they know is inappropriate. Either way, it’s wrong and I’m tired of tolerating it. Although as the OP’s terrifying experience shows, I don’t have much choice if I don’t want to risk being physically attacked. should I choose to confront someone for conducting themselves in an aggressive or inappropriate way.

  • Agree with Anonymous @1:58. Sad but valuable lesson in this story is that Do Not Engage is Urban Living 101 – including and maybe especially those areas where you think it’s safe. You have to assume potential menace and never engage with a creepy lurker. Any time you’re being followed, cross or step into the street, go to a door different from your own, stop and talk to other passers-by. As long as the creep hasn’t confronted you first, the goal should be get away with no verbal exchange.

  • Why did the guy have a ski mask on his person?

  • OP here- answering the husband question.

    My husband was walking about 10-15 feet ahead of me when this situation started. We got separated during the chase. The whole encounter only lasted a couple of minutes. There wasn’t much he could do once the guy charged after me. The guy was fixated on me. By the time my husband caught up to us in the street, the man had already fled.

    I also agree with other posters that if my husband had tried to physically attack or restrain the assailant, things could have ended much worse.

    • Even if your husband were right next to you, I’d consider that someone acting the way this person did was prepared – and even hoping for – some kind of altercation. Whether the intent was robbery or just harassment, he knew you were with someone and it’s all the more reason to not engage and just get away from him.

    • Self defense will teach you when to fight and when to flee, as well as better prepare you for city living.


      • Thanks for the shout out, YupYup. Defend Yourself classes do cover your options in various situations, and equip you with a virtual “toolbox” of strategies. We also work on how to most effectively get help, and how to safely intervene as a bystander, all of which are relevant in situations like this one.

        We’ve got a short workshop coming up that is open to women and girls age 16+ and free to the public. It’s being sponsored by singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile’s Fight the Fear Campaign. For more info on that and our other workshops and classes, go to http://www.defendyourself.org/findaclass.shtml. Also, I’m about to write a longer response to the OP, so you can go check that out for more.

        All the best, Lauren (director of Defend Yourself)

    • Hi OP, I hope your adrenaline has dropped since the incident, that you’re physically ok, and that you’ll be back to walking with your head up again soon. Internet hugs to you!
      After my recent incident (written above) I signed up for a self-defense class with DC IMPACT just to feel like I have more information and more options when these things happen. Because they’re going to happen again. Maybe I’ll see you at the July 26 session?

  • Until the OP chimes in here, we have zero idea how it played out in terms of her husband’s participation. But I’ll add my two cents because I feel kinda bad for the guy. Given the narrative, I can totally see how her husband got lost in this. There was probably a lot more dialogue exchanged that she didn’t include- she posted on POP, she’s not writing the screenplay. I highly doubt he just stood there silently and watched the whole thing. From what I can tell, she suddenly took off running. Had this been me and my boyfriend, I could easily imagine him running after me or yelling at me to stop but adrenaline would’ve kept me going. In no way would I want or expect him to intervene physically (I should probably mention this to him later so god forbid he doesn’t end up getting hurt for defending me). It also sounds like it happened really fast- maybe he was just so caught off guard that he didn’t know what to do. And perhaps she had the phone for the night. My bf and I usually only take one phone when we go out. Sounds like she took the situation into her own hands and he was suddenly another bystander. Also, she had called 911 so I’m wondering who talked to the operator. Maybe it was her husband in a total panic. Am I missing some crucial element here? Not trying to be the Bloodhound Gang, just offering the poor dude a helping hand. More importantly though, OP, I’m really sorry you both went through this. It must’ve been terrifying.

  • So sorry this happened to you, it completely sucks that such creepers exist, and that none of the people nearby stepped up to help.

    A few months ago my husband and I were walking towards the Silver Spring metro after seeing a movie at the AFI and a creeper came up behind me, got really close and asked me for a cigarette. Normally I’m pretty generous with my bad habit but his proximity and tone made the hairs on my neck stand up, so I said “sorry, I’m out” and kept walking. He continued walking super close, right behind us, for several minutes. I finally whipped around, made eye contact and said “can I help you” in as strong a tone as I could muster. He backed off right away and we hurried on. My husband hadn’t even noticed the guy was still there but another couple came up to ask if he had been bothering us too. Apparently the creep had just pulled a similar trick on them. To be honest, I’m glad my husband didn’t really notice until after I confronted the guy. He definitely would have intervened had the creep gotten physical with me (in fact on our first date he defended my beer’s honor when a rando grabbed it off our patio table and chugged it) and who knows what might have happened.

  • Was the guy by chance wearing a olive green military style jacket? Roughly 6’1″ – 6’3″. Some rough facial hair and a going slightly gray?

    All this made me think of was being verbally and almost physically assaulted at the 14th street bus stop near Florida Ave by a guy who just started screaming and calling me a “Stupid ass cracker” over and over. I had to physically push him back at arms length and back onto the bus while he just lost his mind.

    • Was this a white guy? 50s. If so, I’ve come across him too. He’s clearly mentally ill. I have photos too.

  • Thought about this one more. People need to think about, and practice, better situational awareness. The OP and her husband need to watch their surroundings, cause it sounds like he was oblivious to her actions until it was too late. It sounds like a crazy, ex-military, gun toting crazy man theory, but I assume any situation can escalate poorly and quickly. And I practice how to help myself and wife get away through nonconfrontational de-escalation (which you’ll find is a huge part of many self-defense courses). If my wife and I left a cab at night, you had better believe I know the position of every person within sight. Because the moment we step out, I take a look around. If there’s people around, there’s no reason to run ahead of the wife, and leave her walking alone. Sure, you can argue that there’s no reason to suspect a bad encounter, but why leave it to chance.

    Furthermore, my wife knows that the worst thing you can do to a criminal/crazy person on the street is engage them. While we shouldn’t blame the victim, her story would have been a lot less dramatic if it ended with “guy took pictures and I walked away with my husband next to me…” The attacker did nothing illegal until she had engaged him several times. Instead, she and her husband could have walked quietly to a safe place of business and waited until the guy left or call police to address the harassment.

    • justinbc

      “The OP and her husband need to watch their surroundings, cause it sounds like he was oblivious to her actions until it was too late.”
      It was almost 11PM. I’ve seen lots of couples get in fights after drinking out at the bars / restaurants and wind up walking totally separate from each other to “prove a point”. I’ve no idea if that’s the case in this scenario, but it might be a good story for why it’s important to bury the hatchet sooner rather than later and be more forgiving of the one you love, since you could be part of the reason they’re no longer around.

      • HaileUnlikely

        + 10 million. I’ve strictly kept a “don’t go to bed angry” policy ever since a friend of mine died in her sleep of a rare cardiovascular thing while in college. Generalizing that beyond going to bed is wise indeed.

      • I’ve seen that too, good thinking. Though we can’t be sure the OP and her husband mirror that scenario. Part of maintaining situational awareness is not walking around drunk late at night, though I’ll freely admit to doing so, especially when I was younger, and on more than one occasion doing so nearly got me in trouble.

  • houseintherear

    First of all, I hate this wording of “I paid the price.” You didn’t do anything wrong and don’t let anyone tell you that you did. There was no price- it was that man’s choice to harass, stalk, and assault you. Perhaps you’ll choose other ways to deal with future events like this, but that does NOT mean you did anything wrong.
    Second, just a helpful hint- Lately, I have found lots of success with putting my hand up to my face, almost as if shielding the sun, and literally blocking out my view of any harassers or leering pervs. Even doing that when passing a group of men on the street makes me feel better. Perhaps I look mentally ill, but I don’t give a hoot.

    • justinbc

      “that does NOT mean you did anything wrong”
      Apparently the police have a different opinion on that.

      • houseintherear

        Wow. Time and time again, I do not understand you. Why did you comment here? Why did you feel the need to say that? Do you agree with the police? I’d hope not. If you don’t, why did you write that? What was your purpose in commenting? Or do you think about the purpose at all? Please JUST STOP.

  • I’m sorry this happened to you. I don’t think asking where your husband was matters. Also worth adding that according to DC Code – § 22–1810 threatening bodily injury (including saying “I will kill you”) is a felony. I learned it the hard way when we had to call the cops. Couple months ago my husband was riding a bike when someone out of a group of teenagers usually hanging out by the Shaw metro threw something at him. He turned around and asked “he threw something?” Someone else from the group decided to pull on his backpack and started pulling stuff out (pretty ballsy since he was coming back from 1the gym and that stuff smells pretty bad). I was walking our big but still a puppy dog towards them and seeing 20 teenagers surrounding my husband I pulled my phone out to dial 911 if needed. The group surrounded me but nobody our dog kept everyone at bay (I don’t want to see the protective side of her anytime soon). The situation started getting sketchier and I dialed 911. One of the kids looked me in the eyes and said “If you’re calling the cops I will kill you”. Once they realized I wasn’t faking the call they run. Husband took over the 911 call and multiple MPDC units were there in 5 minutes to find the kids and write the report. The officer who took our report was super nice and thanked us for reporting – if they don’t know about it they can’t help you. The detective who took over kept us up to date on the (lack of) progress. Probably worth adding that my husband is a Special Agent so we might have gotten preferential law enforcement treatment. It’s been months and I still won’t walk up 7th after dark.

  • OP, do you think it could have been the guy described in this thread?

  • 1) As a man, walk next to your woman late at night. Don’t walk ahead or behind.

    2) If this was my wife, I would have never been seperated and fought like holy hell to fight with her, protect her.

    Strange story. My guess is they were both really drunk but she’s leaving it out.

    • Not drunk. Had just come from watching a play at the Folger Theater. Believe it or not- I wasn’t even dressed provocatively!

  • Suggestion to couples: discuss your respective willingness to escalate vs. retreat from different types of situations. I do not know how I would have responded if I were in this sort of situation with my partner, but I do know that I would not have been happy with my partner for escalating it to the point that I was forced to either get into a 100% avoidable physical altercation or else look and feel like a piece of sh!t for not defending her.

    • Am I the only one who doesn’t expect my significant other (or male friends) to fight for me? If anything, I’m less likely to speak up if he’s around just in case the situation were to escalate and he finds himself in the middle. My fights are my own, which factors into my calculations when I decide whether or not to speak up.
      This is not to criticize the OP. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and while perhaps some other actions might have worked out better (not that you can ever know), you didn’t do anything wrong. It sounds like a terrifying experience, and I’m glad you and others involved seem to have gotten out without being seriously hurt.

      • Personally, I would feel compelled to irrespective of whether my partner expected me to, but I would not be happy about it if she were to have instigated or escalated things in the first place. I suspect that most close male friends, and definitely husbands, would feel compelled to as well, so unless you have explicitly discussed and reached agreement on this with the friend or partner in question, there is still a risk that they will end up in the middle of a fight that they don’t want to be in, so if you start something with the justification that “it’s your fight alone,” realize that it it possible that not all parties involved will be on the same page.

        • I agree that many people would feel compelled to step in, which is why I tend to be more passive than normal if I’m not alone. It’s one thing if I escalate things and endanger myself, I wouldn’t want it to fall onto someone else as well.
          I do like your idea of having a discussion beforehand and trying to come to an agreement. That said, I’m the type who would jump in to defend someone I care about anyway (comical, once you consider that I’m quite small and weak), so even if we agreed to step aside if one of us goes off I’d probably still play it extra safe.

      • I’ve never thought of that anon, but that is a good idea. Even though I’m generally the more apt to defend myself, I’m totally going to ignore this sort of thing. No reason to get into fights over photos, never know if someone has a weapon.
        I expect my partner (female) or friends (mostly male) to assist me if I’m in an unwarranted fight I.e. Not a drunken brawl I started. I give the same in return. Whether they jump in or call the police. I’ve never walked that far from a companion if we’re going to the same place for no other reason than we can chat more easily.

    • Very good points. Unfortunately, one has to deal with situations like this, from time to time. Adult and especially women’s self defense classes are so common now that everyone should look into them. And they ask these tough questions ahead of time. I’ve never heard an expert suggest your best course of action is confrontation.

      • No expert would ever recommend it, and I can’t recommend self defense classes enough. A valuable skill.

  • I think people are just generally getting more aggressive. Not too long ago I was downtown. I saw this guy kind of harassing some young women. He let them pass but as I passed him he asked me if I lived here. I said yes, which i do but also because he looked like he was harassing tourists. Then he asked for directions to some place I had never heard of. I can’t remember what he said now, but it sounded like a shelter (which I have no problem with whatsoever). I told him I didn’t know. Then his voice got a little louder and he said, “I’m not homeless!” and he said it again louder and more aggressively. He followed me for half a block. It was unnerving. It is not limited to DC. Recently I was in Langley park at a fabric store I like over there. As I was walking to my car I saw a woman kind of heading in my direction. As she came closer she muttered something about money and I completely ignored her. She stated saying “you don’t have to be afraid of me!” and said it again a time or two more. At that point I was afraid of her. Then as she got closer to me she touched a car and some alarm on it went apeshit like nothing I ever heard before. sirens and voices and buzzing. It was pretty cool. I got in my car and left.

  • OMG WHERE WAS HER SUPER BIG STRONG MANLY HUSBAND!?!?!?!?! Thank goodness she wasn’t with another female friend!! Two females defending themselves is double-worthless. (I feel compelled to say that I’m joking otherwise people on this thread might actually believe my comment.) In all sincerity, I’m really sorry you went through this. I’m also sorry your husband has to read these comments. Tell him his wife is a total [email protected] please.

    • Thank you. That’s honestly the worst thing about this. I feel so bad for him- especially bc he encouraged me to write to Popville to warn others. 🙁

      I think I’ve had enough internet for today.

    • You can mock our questions, but we live in reality. It is a reality where a spouse comes to their spouse’s aid, in whatever fashion: calling 911, chasing a person, etc. And two against one is usually better., even in your two female scenario. As the others have said, it’s time for self defense class. And most relevant here: unfortunately, a man may be less willing to assault a woman when another man intervenes.

      In the South, this would NEVER fly. Ugh people in DC are cowards.

  • As I’m reading the comments, I’m astounded that most of them question the location of the husband. He obviously was not close by or he would’ve intervened. Perhaps I’m reading the situation wrong but that seems absurdly obvious to me.

    Also, while I agree with the OP that she didn’t make the best decision, I know myself and would’ve done the same thing she did — stand up for myself when feeling I’m in a place of safety. For me, the moral of this story is the lack of help from the people around her. That is reprehensible. I did read another comment about how specifically yelling, “Call 911,” might’ve been more helpful and I believe that’s true but, putting myself in the OP’s shoes, I doubt I would’ve had the wherewithal to do that and I would hope that the OBSERVERS would be able to figure shit out and do the right thing.

    OP, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I can’t imagine how you’re feeling now. Thanks for posting this. Hopefully, it will stick in our minds if and when we find ourselves in a situation like this.

  • I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I’m even more sorry that you are having to read comments that blame you and your husband for what happened. Victim blaming (and that’s what much of this criticism is) in this case is something of a coping mechanism. If it is revealed that you or your husband did something wrong, or did something to provoke the attack, then everyone else can (in their minds) take steps to avoid the same actions and be safe. It may help them sleep at night, but it does nothing to actually make us safer.

    Also, several others have mentioned the Bystander Effect, so I won’t go in to detail describing it again, but I will say that one of the only ways to combat it is to ask one person directly for help. Just saying “someone, please help!” unfortunately is not enough most of the time. If you have the ability, the best thing would be to speak to one person directly and ask for help, or even command it.

  • Wow. That is a scary situation. I think the big take away is a) be specific in a cry for help lest you be lumped in with a bunch of other drunk screaming girls and b) maybe the best way to handle creepy stalkers is to step aside and let them pass. I have found from my experience that although it may be satisfying to stand up for yourself the chances are against you that you are dealing with a rational person. The best defense is just to deffect and avoid. I feel for the OP…sorry this happened to you.

  • Oops…deflect…you could also deffect but that seems extreme.

  • Street Harassment whether it be physical or verbal is a very real problem for women in DC and its upsetting that there is not an attempt from police to prosecute it.

  • Dear OP,

    I know it’s been said, and I’ll say it again: This whole thing is horrible and I’m so sorry that it happened to you. I hope you’re taking time to care for yourself as you process it.

    The fact that bystanders didn’t step up is distressing. There are so many barriers to “getting involved” for most people. I think it’s on each one of us to do our part to make the world a better place, AND that people have to make sure they stay safe themselves as they intervene. For some that can be second nature, and for others it takes a whole lot of work to get there. (Defend Yourself, the organization I lead, teaches strategies for asking for help as well as intervening. If there are folks here who’d like to have more tools in your toolbox around those issues, check out our workshops.)

    The other most horrible thing (among several horrible things in your experience) was the police reaction. Honestly, they don’t know what they’re talking about. (Research shows that in about 75% of situations resistance works.) What the officers said to you reminds me of the police “advice” to women facing rape attempts over the decades when I was growing up (I’m in my 50s): They told us to just “lie back and take it.” This is a modern-day version of that. *Women are blamed either way.* If you resist you get told you should have been passive (essentially what the cops said to you); if you don’t resist they say “why didn’t she resist? She must have wanted it.”

    As awful as you feel right now, I hope you can release your self-blame (about what you “should” have done), and honor your self-preservation instincts. In Defend Yourself’s classes we talk about having a range of strategies available to you. Only you can know in a situation which one feels like the best one (involving your intuition, etc.). You can try that and if that doesn’t work, try another. We emphasize “no shoulds”: no self-judgment for what you did in a past situation or what you might do in a future one.

    A guy verbally and physically attacked you. It’s his fault. You can’t know if it would have been better if you hadn’t responded strongly. In many situations, if you don’t respond assertively, the attack will escalate. I hope you and the readers can take that in. Resistance doesn’t (usually) exacerbate the situation. Compliance doesn’t (usually) increase your safety. The causality is not one way.

    Thank you for sharing your story, OP. I hope it does change the way some people think about harassment and assault, and about their role as bystanders. I hope that the telling of your experience also was helpful. (I hope that all the commenters laying “shoulds” on you doesn’t feel like piling on.) Feel free to contact me through the defendyourself.org web site if there’s any way I can support you.

    Best, Lauren

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