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“the first time I brushed it off as part of a crowded train environment or a random thing”

by Prince Of Petworth December 9, 2015 at 1:10 pm 103 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

“Dear PoPville,

This morning on the red line I sat beside a medium tall-ish, dark-haired, middle-aged man with a briefcase, who proceeded (while sitting) to continue holding either side of his case, which in turn made his left hand keep brushing against my upper thigh. I was against the window, so didn’t have much room, but I kept scooting away from him and giving him pointed looks that clearly indicated discomfort. If his hands were just sitting there, that may have been one thing, but I could feel his fingers wiggling against my thigh, which made me extremely uncomfortable.

I thought about saying something, but I didn’t. I really regret that. If the guy is innocently oblivious, he needs to know how uncomfortable his hands made me. If he’s not so innocent, people need to be made aware of this. This is actually the second time this has happened with this same man, but the first time I brushed it off as part of a crowded train environment or a random thing. However, after this morning I feel rather violated, and wish I had said something. I’ve never dealt with anything like this before, and I’m wondering if others have experienced the same thing?”

  • Eric

    You’ve got to communicate these things to people, don’t be afraid next time.

    • Caroline

      What would you say to him?

      • jdre

        I don’t mean to suggest that it’s easy to do; I can understand the hesitation and complexity… but I think especially if they’ve moved away and he somehow manages to continue, saying something along the lines of “Excuse me, your hand seems to keep touching my leg, could you move it?” would be a fair way to start to go about it?

        • +1, anyone who’s not doing it on purpose should readily and without issue respond to this request.

      • wdc

        “Your hand is on my leg. Would you please move it?” said in a pleasantly neutral tone, no smile.

      • anon

        Hi, your hand seems to be touching my leg. I’m sure it’s just an innocent mistake, because to do so on purpose would be battery. Please stop.

      • Anon Spock

        “Excuse me, you’re touching my leg while tapping your case. Please stop.” If he persists, then you can get louder or move seats. I would ask him to turn his case the other way if he’d like to continue tapping, so that he has more room.
        You don’t need a special script to stop someone from assaulting you, but a pointed look is worthless. You assume he’s looking and cares.
        I’d sit on the aisle seat in the future, so you can more easily relocate.

      • Ashley B.

        “Stop touching me.” No smile, no equivocation.

        I really think women (especially) need to practice saying these kinds of things in a role play situation so they can act without hesitation in the moment.

        We really have to stop worrying about being “nice” (in general, but with strangers in particular).

        • Caroline

          I don’t worry about being nice, but about giving the perv the satisfaction of knowing he made me uncomfortable. Isn’t that what they’re after?

          • Ashley B.

            Hmmm…good question. Regardless, I think defending your boundaries with clear, direct language and not couching it in “please, maybe, do you mind” is always best. I’d think it also shortens the encounter; there’s no opportunity for him to claim you’ve misunderstood.

            I will never forget my mom telling me years ago about a situation where a man was following her and a girl friend at a crowded theater. She loudly said “We do not know this man and he is following us.”

            You have to know in your gut you’re empowered to act for yourself. Others can’t help you if they don’t know what’s happening. Being clear in your response gives others permission to step in on your behalf if necessary.

          • Anon

            No clue what the perv’s are after, but it makes sense as a power dynamic.

          • Truxton Thomas

            I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he refuses to acknowledge that he’s doing anything wrong even as he is stimulated by the experience. Also, I agree with the role-playing idea.

          • “Isn’t that what they’re after?”
            I think it’s harmful to assume they’re all “after” the same thing. Deviants of any type vary quite a bit, so being affirmative in protecting yourself because of one specific variant shouldn’t be an advocated practice.

          • textdoc

            I believe some of them graduate to indecent exposure and sometimes from there to rape.
            I suspect they’re not after a reaction per se — I think they just get off on touching someone without her consent.

      • GPDC

        There was a man on a somewhat crowded train, who kept shoving a rolled up newspaper up my rear (we were both standing). I asked him firmly/loudly to stop several times over my shoulder. Finally, he did it again, and I whipped around, ripped the newspaper from his hands looked straight into his eyes and told him if he so much as looks at me again, the next stop is his. He turned bright red and sheepishly exited the train. You can only take so much, and I knew it was deliberate in such a violating creepy way. A few people clapped for me and a lady told me “good job.” I felt like I did the right thing.

      • Swdc

        Stop touching me you creepy _________!!!!!

  • Caroline

    Great question. I always do nothing in situations like that because I have no idea what to say.
    Could you place a purse or some other object between you and him?

  • Anon


    • Janet

      LOL, I was thinking of that too!

    • anonymous

      YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. That show is too good!

      • los

        Great minds think alike. Not to make light, but that was my first thought as well.

        I used to have a Japanese girlfriend who said it was almost an everyday occurrence for her in Tokyo and the societal expectation was to simply let the perv have his way lest she embarrass him.

        One day she decided to scream as loud as she could and lo and behold other women joined in, beat the guy and held him until the cops came in. Weird thing is that she felt bad for him, his family, his career, etc.

        • textdoc

          Yes — the phenomenon of “chikan” (“pervert(s)”) in crowded Japanese trains depends largely on the victim not saying anything. And until recently, it (unbelievably) wasn’t actually a crime in Japan to grope someone.

          • I don’t find that all that unbelievable given many of the other disparities with regard to dominance that exist between the genders there.

  • K

    Ugh I hate that. It’s unfortunate that the inappropriate touching happens so often on the overcrowded metro. And usually its just slight enough to make you question what is actually happening. I think it is really common for women to do exactly what you did. To just squeeze in and try to become as small as possible. I know that is usually my immediate instinct.

    • I think the “crowded train” excuse might have some merit, although very little, if they were standing up. I can’t see that being at all applicable to people sitting down, there are clearly defined lines of space there. Anyone reaching over that is 1) a large person, or 2) disrespectful or oblivious of others’ personal space. Scenario 1 can’t be helped (at least in the immediate sense), but scenario 2 can and should be remediated.

      • K

        Oh yeah sorry I didn’t mean my comment to sound like I was excusing this behavior. I should have been more clear. It’s been my experience that pervs use the crowded nature of metro to take advantage of the situation.

  • AMDCer

    I would just politely say, “excuse me, could you please stop touching me?” It’s not accusatory if you say it nicely, so it doesn’t indicate that you think he is doing it on purpose (though both you and he will know that you do…)

  • Anon female

    This, or very similar situations, have happened to me numerous times before. It’s tough because you don’t want to make a scene but it’s INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. I’ve moved my purse to the area between myself and the stranger, but this can be tricky if there isn’t much space. I think sometimes the best thing to do is excuse yourself from the seat and move to another car at the next stop.

    • FridayGirl

      Yes, I have done this on the bus before. Even if it’s busy I get up and move immediately if I feel weird about something…

  • ke

    Ew, same man? Sounds like a perv. I know it’s hard to pipe up in the moment. I don’t think these kinds of creepers respond to looks or body language. They need to be spoken to in firm, clear, calm language. If it happens again, you could say, “You need to stop touching me.” In a loud voice. He would probably deny he was doing anything, but you both know what was going on, and it’s good to tell him to stop.

    Yuck, sorry this happened to you.

    • textdoc

      Agreed. Once I got to “This is actually the second time this has happened with this same man,” I thought, “No way is this accidental.”

  • Carla

    This has happened to me also. How about saying something like: “I’m not sure if you are aware of it, but you keep touching me and I’d appreciate it if you would stop.” He’ll swear it was an accident, but at least he knows you’re on to him.

    • jenster8dc

      I’m for the direct approach. “Stop touching me.” Add a “please” if you want, but none of this “not sure if you’re aware of it. He’s aware of it.

  • anon

    This has happened to me a handfull of times. No need to be nice. Either get up immediately, or look at him and say STOP. If you think its on purpose, it is, and the guy knows its an uncomfortable situation and isnt expecting you to react. But put yourself first and get yourself out of the situation.

    • Timebomb

      Assuming you can get up immediately? If this is the guy’s MO, I can only assume he’s usually on the outside seat, after having selected a target?

      • FridayGirl

        I’m sorry but I really can’t think of a scenario in which one couldn’t get up immediately. You can pretty much always get up immediately if you loudly say “Excuse me” or “I have to get out now.” If I got up and then someone didn’t let me out I’d make a huge freaking scene.

      • anon

        Two out of three times this has happened to me, I was in the inside seat and just pushed past him. If he feels free to feel me up, you better believe I wont wait for permission to get out of the seat. If you are really trapped, thats when you speak up. I think my point is that if someone is making you uncomfortable, you don’t owe them anything. Remove yourself from the situation. Even if it is a mistake and they are touching you by accident (but lets be real, its no accident) there is no need for you to sit there while he is invading your space.

  • petworther

    Creepers gonna creep. This isn’t really blatant enough it can be outlawed. If it happens again just say politely but loudly, “sir, could you please stop touching my leg.”

    • houseintherear

      No. You say, “Stop.” No please.

      • AnotherBdaleResident

        You say whatever you are comfortable saying. If that includes “please,” that’s fine. If you want to use expletives, that’s fine.

    • Ellie1

      Are you Gallery Place afternoon station manager? He said almost the EXACT same thing to me when something like this happened about a year ago! So I stopped riding Metro.

  • vicarz

    This was no accident. This is why women always sit on the outside seat of metro buses and trains. The guy was 100% perv and didn’t care about consent.

    I don’t blame you for not saying anything because you were victimized, but don’t worry about manners. If you were safe doing so, a direct verbal confrontation and humiliation of this creep would have been in order. I 100% back up that sort of action in person, and have addressed it without being asked when I’ve seen it in public (I can do that). I encourage others to do so – it’s just a mild form of sexual assault, but it’s a sexual assault…so perhaps mild isn’t the word. It should be stopped, loudly, and by force if necessary.

  • David T.

    First of all, I’m really sorry that this happened to you. When I’m seated next to someone on a train or a bus, I always put my bag on my lap and put my hand on top of it in the middle. I started doing this after I experienced something similarly unfortunate on a MetroBus a few years ago. I had a morning meeting in Columbia Heights, so I was taking one of the 14th St. buses northbound during rush hour. I was one of the only people on the bus and had a forward-facing two-person seat to myself near the rear door of the bus. At T St. a man who looked to be about 20-30 years older than me got on the bus and proceeded to make his way directly to my seat, where he sat down next to me. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t want to make a scene. A couple blocks after he got on the bus, he put his hand on my thigh and started rubbing it. I tried to shift toward the window, but there wasn’t much room left. When he moved his hand to the upper inside of my thigh, I pulled the stop cord. He took his hand away, but gave me this wicked smirk. I was able to push past him and get out the back door of the bus about 4 blocks short of my destination. This is why I now keep my hands as far away from other bus and Metro riders as possible when sharing a seat–I don’t want anyone to even think for a moment that I might be considering doing to them what was done to me.

    • AG

      OMG WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING?!?!?!?! That is straight up sexual harrasment, and you were on a bus with a driver. It’s not like you were in a desolate metro car. I hope this never happens to you again, but if it does, please say something!

      • FridayGirl

        It really hits me the wrong way when people say “OMG WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY ANYTHING?!” Not to call ‘victim blaming’ but people have their reasons. It would be great if we all had the tools and confidence to speak up but we shouldn’t fault those who don’t — rather, offer them support.

        • AnotherBdaleResident


        • nevermindtheend


      • textdoc

        I don’t think it’s fair to fault David — or any other victim — for not saying anything. When something like this happens, the victim is usually thinking, “What the hell?!?” and is struggling to get his/her head around the idea that it’s actually happening.
        Sure, it would be great if weirdos like these were called out, but for the victim, the most important thing is making the behavior stop and/or getting away.

      • David T.

        Monday-morning-quarterbacking aside, I’ll try to explain my thought process. When the man first paused in the aisle next to my seat and turned toward me, I thought, “this seems odd.” When he sat down next to me, I thought, “is he going to rob me?” I’m very fortunate that as a 6-foot tall guy, I very rarely have experienced any sort of harassment in DC, so at first it didn’t even cross my mind that his intentions would be of a sexual nature. When his hand moved to my leg, I was honestly shocked. This had never happened to me and I froze, not knowing what to do, other than trying to move away from him to get him to stop. When his hand moved further, I guess my fight-or-flight subconscious took over and I opted for flight, just to have it all be over. I was never prepared for this scenario by anyone in the way that many of my female friends were and the panic over what felt like a violation of my body caused me to shut down and try to end it and prevent any additional engagement with the man. So that’s why I didn’t say anything.

    • Mt. PP

      Something similar happened to me–totally empty bus and this guy decides to sit next to me. He sat so his thigh was touching mine. I tried to move closer to the window at first, but he would move his leg too. Finally, I looked at him and said “I don’t want to be touched” and then when that didn’t work “stop touching me”. He tried to make a scene by saying loudly, “Oh she doesn’t want to be touched!” But enough people had boarded the bus by then, so he moved his leg over and got off the bus after that. Don’t be afraid to say something, anything! You’re the only one that can defend yourself here.

  • Kellye

    Something similar happened to me on the bus. I was sitting in the first row after preferred seating, on the window. And older (mid-50s) man say next me. He was quite thin, but tall, as am I. Well, the manspread had him pressing his right knee against my left leg/knee. I tried to move away and make my 5’10” frame as small as possible. But, it’s like he was leaning his leg on mine. I was disgusted and glared at him. When he got up to get off the bus he kind of threw me a sneer. I wanted to shower and vomit and kick him in the shins. I wish I had said “Excuse me, sir. Do you mind making a little room? You’re all up in my space.”

  • wdc

    Relatedly, I always call out manspreaders. Not nastily– they might be genuinely unaware they they are not entitled to 60 percent of a two-person seat. So before I sit down, I look at the leg and say “excuse me.” It has never failed to work. Of course, I pick my battles. The guy on a crowded bus/train who’s sitting in the middle of two seats with his legs at a 90 degree angle is not the hill I’m going to die on.

  • Anon Spock

    So men and women are putting up with this stuff…can anyone tell me why? Are you afraid of reprisal or just don’t want to make a scene? I’m trying to understand the thought process behind glaring or trying to scoot away rather than speaking up or moving out of the space.

    • Shan O

      I’ve been sexually assaulted on the X2 when riding to chinatown before and also didn’t say anything. I was going to get up and move, but luckily for me the man actually exited the bus before I had the opportunity to move. The back of his seat was perpendicular with the front of mine and he pretended to drop something so he could purposely run his hand all the way up my thigh. I shudder just thinking about it still. To answer your question Anon Spock, I think a lot of why both men and women don’t do anything is out of fear. We never know how the person may react when confronted. Every day (especially in DC) we hear stories of people being stabbed or shot for less than this; for less than being told sorry you can’t touch me, I’m not attracted to you, I’m not yours, etc, so what’s to say that my life isn’t in jeopardy by speaking up. Sure, I want to believe in the greater good of the other people on the bus/metro and that if I speak up, someone else will have my back, but that isn’t always the case. I think it stems back to the fact that women are actually taught to let a rapist get on with what they have to do (i.e. rape them) rather than fight back and die, because at least we lived then….

    • textdoc

      Anon Spock, you might want to read Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” Although you appear to have been immune from this phenomenon, most women are acculturated into being polite, not making a fuss, being “nice,” etc. This works against them when it comes to weirdos who take advantage of it.

        • Anonoline

          Or watch the episode of Master of None referenced above. I think the discussion they have at the bar gets the point across better.

          • You are the first one to mention the show, so for those of us who know nothing about it, where is the reference?

          • AnotherBdaleResident

            @Justinbc This probably isn’t the scene anononline is talking about but it’s from the same episode. It’s a show on Netflix, and one episode is about gender differences. Easily top 10 perfectly shown scene of how different it feels to walk home alone as a woman.


          • LOL, yeah, I can totally believe that. I have one friend who no matter what she posts it quickly devolves into that kind of thing. I don’t have Netflix but I’ll see if I can find the show online, I like Aziz.

        • SWChick

          thank you for this!

    • AnotherBdaleResident

      Here’s a few reasons why someone may not speak up (note, this isn’t really the same thing as “putting up” with it):
      – It can be scary to engage with a stranger that is engaging with you in an inappropriate and gross way – you don’t know what their thought process is, or who they are, or how they may react. This is often something talked about with street harassment (sometimes these men can get violent or follow you home – it’s scary).
      – You might just freeze up and just not know how to deal with it. You’re not expecting this kind of interaction and you just get in your head about it – like the poster thinking “is this intentional?” “haven’t I seen this guy before?” – it can be hard to suss out when you’re just kind of in shock.
      – You may have a personal history that makes you especially uncomfortable in this situation – whether that’s a past history of violence, or social anxiety – you name it.

    • Pixie

      It’s hard to know how you’d react to something like this. You know you’re not supposed to put up with this BS. You know you’re supposed to tell him to stop. But when it’s happening to you, it’s scary and you feel helpless. You’re afraid of making a scene, afraid making him angrier, afraid of what he’ll do next. One time at a bar a drunk idiot felt me up, and instead of doing what I KNEW I should do and what I always told myself I would do (which was to tell him to eff off), I ran in the bathroom and cried. Then I came out and told my husband, who told the bartender, who kicked the guy out.

      • textdoc

        +1. How you react in the moment — when something happens that you’re not expecting — is not necessarily how you might imagine yourself reacting.

      • Anon

        I’m so sorry this happened to you, Pixie, and thank you for sharing. I was coming here to say the same thing. When a guy exposed himself to me on the metro one time, I was in shock, and then later, I was scared and upset. I feel like it’s really common to freeze up. Like you said, no one knows how they’d react in specific situations like this.

    • Caroline

      Like I said above– I don’t want to give the guy the satisfaction of knowing he made me uncomfortable. I think they must be doing it to get a reaction.
      It would help to know what the motivation usually is behind inappropriate touching, because I sure as hell don’t know.

  • AnotherBdaleResident

    Unfortunately, yes, harassment like this is common. And since this guy seems to be a repeat offender, it’s probably intentional (and yes, it’s totally gross and inappropriate). You need to do whatever makes you feel more comfortable in that situation while still feeling safe – whether that is saying “excuse me, can you please stop touching my leg? or “hey, back off creep!” or moving your bag between you and the person, or saying nothing and just getting out of your seat. That is 100% up to to you – you should do whatever you feel safe and comfortable doing in a situation like this. *Don’t let others make you feel that because you acted/didn’t act in a specific way that you were wrong*.

  • marigold

    I’m sorry this happened to you. It definitely was intentional and I know how violated you must feel. A few years ago I had a guy standing over me while I was sitting in an aisle seat and he proceeded to rub his crotch on my shoulder multiple times. I also questioned whether it was intentional the first time but after the third and fourth I knew he was getting off on making me uncomfortable. I got up and immediately left the train but I wish I had said something also or told someone. I’m sure he is probably still riding the train doing it to other unsuspecting people… sicko!

  • AG

    “Can you please move your hand? It’s touching my leg.” If they look at you like your crazy, you can say “It’s making me uncomfortable.” Smile if you want, they may be totally oblivious or they may be a total creeper. But at the very least, if you don’t want to say anything, just get up. Don’t subject yourself to this behavior.

  • Nerrrrrrrrd

    I’ve had shifty teenage kids do similar things to me on the bus, like weird little pre-adults trying get a quick thrill by testing out boundaries. I just loudly clear my throat and shift a little bit, but don’t actually move into a smaller position. This usually works.
    Honestly, the best defense is a good “bus face.” Creepers aren’t stupid, they don’t choose their targets at random.

    • Krampus

      What is “bus face”?

      • FridayGirl

        I usually have my resting-bitch-face on if that’s what nerrrrrd is referring to. Hah.

        • nevermindtheend

          That’s my bus face.

        • Nerrrrrrrrd

          You got it, FridayGirl. Bus Face, aka bitchy resting face, aka ‘don’t even try f***ing with me because I’ll make a scene’ face. It’s similar to “walk like you have somewhere important to be.”

          • AnotherBdaleResident

            I’m so glad I’m a fast walker by nature. That and wearing glasses, which makes me look straight ahead, has probably saved me from some nasty jerks.

          • FridayGirl

            +1! I am also what my friend call a “determined walker.” It’s completely unintentional but very helpful.

  • MPinDC

    Say” I want you to stop touching my leg”
    Don’t smile, don’t say please, don’t apologize
    Gavin Becker’s book The Gift of Fear has been recommended before but it’s worth re-recommending. Also, DC Impact which teaches verbal self defense as well as physical self defense. The best part of this training was the practice (practice, practice) with feedback on both verbal and physical techniques.

    • flieswithhoney

      Agreed. My view is that we teach kids to yell “Stop Touching Me!” not “please don’t touch me” so why should I be polite about telling someone to stop engaging in unwanted behavior just because I am an adult? Of course, this often fails me in the moment but, like we do with teaching verbal defenses to kids, I should practice my own.

      • houseintherear

        This is what we teach young children in school, you’re exactly right. It’s a statement of what you need to happen, like a necessity. “You need to stop,” or, “Stop now.” We don’t teach them to yell, but rather to look at the person in the eye and say the phrase very firmly. After I was trained on that program I totally changed my ways in society with yucky men… and so far it has worked well.

  • NeverBeenAGirl

    I’ve never had this specific situation happen to me. But when I am riding metro (not often anymore) and someone continues to touch or brush up against me (intentional or not), I usually look them in the eyes, and say “Hey Pal, do you mind (while using my eyes to direct them to the area in question)?” Has worked 100% of the time.

    On a kind of related noted, have people recently stopped riding metro due to a variety of shortfalls? Overcrowding, reliability, inconsistency, lack of law enforcement presence, etc? I ask because we actually just recently bought a second car to avoid the entire system all together. In the last year or so, it’s really gone to crap.

  • Happened to me too

    On a crowded blue/orange line train a few years ago, I could feel a man standing behind me, and no matter how I moved, I couldn’t break contact. I eventually dove into a seat that opened up. I kept watching the man (tall, stout, blond, khakis, black messenger bag), and he immediately stood behind a teenage girl. Keeping his hand around the strap of his messenger bag, he kept wiggling his fingers against the girl’s butt. I loudly said, “You need to move your hand away from her.” He looked at me and said, “Yes.” He bolted as soon as the doors opened. I filed a complaint on Metro’s harassment website but never heard anything from it. I get really paranoid standing in crowded trains now.

  • also anon

    Why are people saying to be polite/nice/apologize/smile? This guy is a creep and he’s obviously doing it on purpose. Look him in the eye and tell him to stop. It’s like not he’s being nice and politely asking you if he can rub on your thigh.
    Too often women and are told to be polite and smile. When you are being violated (unintentionally or not) you don’t have any obligation to make nice and try not to offend someone. Yell, scream and demand what you want. Who care if people think you’re mean?!

    • Anonoline

      All I see are people saying specifically to NOT smile (which is hard for someone like me who unconsciously smiles when I’m nervous).

    • They’re probably saying to do it politely because it’s less likely to be met with resistance, especially in a crowded place like a Metro car. If you act polite and someone refuses you should (hopefully) have the support of your fellow citizens, if you flip the F out and start making a scene people will habitually assume that it’s you who is the problem (whether right or wrong).

      • FridayGirl

        I’m going with Justinbc on this one.

      • also anon

        I’m not saying make a scene and act like a crazy person. I’m saying instead of being nice and polite (i.e. Excuse me sir please stop touching my leg you may not have known you were doing it). Say STOP or something more declarative than a polite request.
        If I were in this situation I definitely sure as hell would not bet on other passengers helping me. Haven’t there been multiple posts, particularly recently, here where people were upset when bystanders didn’t come to their aid? On and off Metro.

      • houseintherear

        “Making a scene”… “flipping out”… believe it or not, women are capable of being firm without becoming hysterical. I wonder if you’d teach your daughter to be polite to a man touching her without her permission.

        • also anon

          Yes thank you. That’s what I meant but you said it better.

        • Maybe you didn’t read this part of the post I was referencing?
          “Yell, scream and demand what you want. Who care if people think you’re mean?!”
          From a casual observer, yes, that will come across as “making a scene”.

      • anon1

        Yep, this is the worry — that if you yell and accuse someone of touching you, the other people around will just assume you’re just being dramatic or overreacting, especially if the person plays dumb when people start to look over.

      • Anonoline

        Men might have a different reaction to such a scene, but I think other women would know that the woman was in the right, even if she was being hysterical. So there’s that.

      • JoDa

        Yeah, I yelled at a guy who pinched my rear one time. It was pretty bold, and the yelling mostly happened because it started as a surprised yelp. I didn’t flip out, I just said, very loudly “you need to keep your hands to yourself.” A helpful bystander felt the need to point out that “really, you’re not that pretty.” The bystander was not a punk-looking person/teenager who you might expect a remark like that from. I’d probably say the same thing at the same volume again, but a meeker person would probably have been pretty devastated by said course of events.
        Also, like, don’t do that if you’re a bystander.

        • That’s awful, I don’t believe in karma, but if it’s a real thing I hope he gets it back around.

          • JoDa

            Interestingly, also a middle-aged dude on the Red Line. I was near the door, and while there was plenty of room to walk in front of me, he pushed behind, forcing me to step forward and turn slightly, and as he passed, pinched. He was trying to say it was just his bag grazing me when the helpful bystander interjected. It was obviously a pinch and his bag wasn’t even in position to have made contact with me at that point.
            Wonder if it’s the same creeper. I can’t remember what he looked like except middle age and about 5’11.

  • kittycatbob

    Unless someone was blocking me from getting out of me seat, I would get up and find somewhere else to go, all while “accidentally” hitting him in the face with my heavy bag. But, yeah, he’d get an earful at the same time. When I was younger (20’s and 30’s) I used to doubt myself and try to rationalize scenarios like this, but as I get older, I find I put up with a lot less bullshit and I’m not afraid to speak up when I feel I’m being wronged. It was hard at first but it gets easier over time. Less stewing in anger and I always feel better afterwards.

    Trust your gut!

  • nevermindtheend

    Filing a report with Metro would be a good place to start. They had an ongoing anti-harassment campaign. You can file a report here: http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/transit_police/harassment.cfm

    I would also say taking a photo of the offender would be useful.

    • nevermindtheend

      *have an ongoing anti-harassment program, not had

  • Ally

    I think the same guy did the exact same thing to me on the red line (was it early in the AM?). Except he’d have his hand resting to his side up against my thigh. If I scooted over, so did he and so did his hand. Yet, it was that it was accidental, so I didn’t say anything either. I just said excuse me, got up, and switched seats.

  • Laura

    The exact same thing happen to me on the orange/blue/silver line about 3 months ago. I was also sitting by the window, and a man sat next to me with his brief case on his lap. I started to feel his hand moving up and down my thigh and I thought it had to be a mistake. I elbowed him after a few seconds and he actually apologized and straightened up. However, after a few more seconds, the groping continued and I loudly said “excuse me” and left the train.

  • Chelsea

    Every time something like this happens to me, I leave feeling like I should’ve said or done something different. Lately I’ve started taking the time to actually write out what I wish I’d said. This has helped me get a little more assertive each time, because in a way, I’ve rehearsed the scenario. So disgusting that we live in a society where I always know without doubt that it will happen to me again.

  • V

    So sorry this happened to you. At first you’re so shocked that you don’t want to believe someone is trying to cop a feel. But, tell them to bugger off… Loudly say, “STOP touching me”… people around you both will look at him with the side eye and it’s a little more comforting when everyone else knows what’s going on.

  • OP,

    I am so sorry to hear that you were touched without your consent on the Metro and want you to know that you are not alone in your experiences or your reactions. There have been many reports of harassment on public transit, and it is not uncommon to freeze when you are violated this way. You did nothing wrong.

    I encourage you to report this incident directly to WMATA through their online reporting system here: http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/transit_police/harassment.cfm. These reports help transit staff and community groups like Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) collect better data on the problem, so we can work toward appropriate solutions and find out if there are times of day or certain Metro stops/lines when and where riders are most at risk. Transit staff and transit police have also been trained to respond to reports, so if you are comfortable, please do report incidents directly to staff.

    Last, I want to let you know that CASS facilitates workshops and trainings for community members to respond to harassment and to be active bystanders if you witness it happening to someone else. Read more about our workshops here: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/our-work/trainings-workshops/.

    If there’s anything I can do to support you, or if you’re interested in getting involved in anti-harassment activism in DC, please email me at [email protected].

    In solidarity,
    Jessica Raven
    Collective Action for Safe Spaces


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