I’ve taken a few self-defense classes and always assumed that if I was ever put into a situation where I needed to defend myself, I would be up for the challenge. Living as a woman, especially in a city as big as New York I think it’s incredibly important that you know how to defend yourself because you can’t always count on the help of others and unfortunately we live in a world where people prey on each other.
One night this past summer as I was walking out of the train station, I heard someone walking behind me but thought nothing of it. I usually don’t listen to music on the train because I like to be aware of my surroundings. I was texting on my phone in a group chat and was completely focused on my conversation. Another lady was coming down the stairs and she smirked at me, which I thought was odd. I started going up the stairs to the street level and I felt something touch my thigh under my dress. I turned around and this man was right behind me with his phone in his hand and the light was on. I was so shocked, I didn’t say anything. At first I thought it was his hand but I realized that it was his phone. He had taken a video up my dress.
He just looked puzzled and walked away. I thought about snapping a picture or following him but decided against it because in the situation I didn’t feel safe. I realized that he might have been doing this from before and that’s why the lady smirked at me. I turned to walk away and texted my friends what happened. They told me to call the police but this man was gone. I did get a pretty good look at him and what he was wearing. I continued to walk up the block looking behind me to make sure he wasn’t following me home.
Some other activity was happening up the block and there were three police cars and an ambulance. I waited a little until I could find a cop and they asked me what he looked like and advised me to call 911 right away if it ever happens again. I don’t have much faith that they really looked for him and they took none of my information down to follow-up.
I continued walking home looking around me constantly to make sure that I wasn’t being followed. In my self-defense class, our teacher makes us end our class by asking us “Who needs a doorman?” and we reply, “Not Me”. But I know that I was extremely grateful that I have night security sitting at the concierge desk every night. Once safely inside the four walls of my apartment, I cried when I got in the shower because I felt so violated. I just wanted to crawl into bed and hide. I told myself I should have called him out like the other women I’ve heard stories about who have chased down these men and taken their photo. I thought I should have taken a different exit, one with more people. I started to blame myself except the only person who is to blame here: him. I thought what would have happened if that random woman hadn’t shown up, would he have attacked me? Would I have been able to fight him off? Was he following me from before I got off the train? Maybe I shouldn’t have worn a dress? Even though it was the summer and I’m free to wear what I choose. I thought so many things and felt so helpless in that moment. To know someone could violate your personal space in such a way is so scary.
I’m sure he’ll do this crime again and I’m sorry for any of his victims who will be hurt by this man. I hope someone is able to fight back and that he receives the consequences that he so desperately deserves. My friend told me I can’t live my life in fear because of this and I don’t intend to. I wasn’t in the wrong and I will not blame myself. I wore a dress to work later that week but I was more aware of people behind me and have felt a little uneasy as I walk around the city by myself. It pains me to live in a world where this type of behavior even exists. My sense of safety and my privacy have been taken from me but I will work to reclaim both back. I have every right to feel safe walking anywhere and the most private parts of my body are only for those whom I choose to share it with, if anyone at all.
The recent campaign #metoo which has highlighted sexual harassment and abuse within our culture shows just how pervasive this type of predatory behavior is. Even though my prayer is that another woman will never find herself in this position, I know that unfortunately this behavior will not change overnight. But if you do find yourself in this position, I hope that you speak up. I lost my voice because of fear and shock but I don’t want anyone, especially any woman to live like that. Scream, shout, make yourself heard. No one has the right to violate you in any way. This behavior will not be tolerated and is not acceptable in any way. If you ever see someone assaulting someone else, say something or call 911 no matter the case don’t think that you understand the story from far away. We have an obligation to help our fellow human beings.
Some time has passed since this incident, and I am more aware of anyone walking behind me. I changed my route and no longer use that train line unless I really must. I never really looked over my shoulder before, but I do now. I’m not sure how long this will last and if it will ever stop. But I am ok and I will be ok. To anyone who has felt this way, please reach out to those around you and seek help. You’re not alone in this. We see you and we validate your story.
*I want to leave the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline number if anyone out there needs support: 800-655-HOPE.