I was walking home from a concert on a regular February evening. It was just me and another man going down the block. He was ahead of me but stopped to enter an apartment, called someone, and asked to be let in, so I passed him. As I turned the corner and unlocked my front door, I felt him grab my ass.
That’s right. In 2012, in New York City, in a “safe” neighborhood where my apartment costs $1850 a month, and is only two blocks away from a populated train, I was followed and groped. I am saying this to reiterate that women are still not safe no matter where we are, and that certain men still don’t get the picture. No, I didn’t want it. To make even clearer since there seems to still be some confusion, women never want it. Don’t come back and say some do. No. We don’t. We don’t, we don’t, we don’t.
So what did I do? Well, I chased him for a half a mile while calling the police. The police said, “We need you to stay where you are. Stop chasing him. He could hurt you.” They were right, he could have had a gun or a knife. Many women in similar situations are rightfully scared to confront predators because situations can easily escalate -- but despite the possible dangers, I couldn’t help it. I chased him because he already hurt me, and I wanted to show him that there were consequences to his actions.
When the police arrived, he had disappeared. We canvassed the area for him for 45 minutes, but did not find him anywhere. They even checked the apartment he was trying to enter before he groped me. It became clear after the police investigated the building he had only pretended to be going to that apartment so that I would pass him. That way he could continue following me without me knowing. This was even more terrifying, because I have no idea just how long he was stalking me, or what else he would have planned on doing if I were in a more vulnerable situation.
Although he had escaped the scene, he hadn’t left my mind. Every day I got on the train, I searched for him. I was afraid since he knew where I lived, he would wait for me outside my door and maybe do something worse. There was not a moment on the train or in my neighborhood that I could exist with ease.
One day I saw him again. I called 911, but they took fourteen minutes to show up. I guess a man who stalks a girl and gropes her doesn’t always qualify as a serious emergency. Please understand it is, indeed, a serious emergency. This may be news to some, but being followed home and getting your butt grabbed is actually more serious than getting mugged. Money can be re-made. Credit cards are easily cancelled. Waiting in line at the DMV sucks, but you can spend your time with a good book. But when someone physically violates you in any way, the violation lasts forever. I now really understood what people meant when they say rape is about power and not about sex. I can only hope he felt stripped of power as he ran away from me, scared of what I might do to him.
The third time I saw him, I called 911 again. This time the police called around, and located a suspect that fit the exact description of the man I identified. He was arrested, put through central booking, and in a way, justice was served. But, unfortunately, justice isn’t really served. I had to take time off work to visit the Assistant District Attorney's office and have several follow-up calls with her. I had to have other numerous phone conversations recounting the evening with various people who had to process reports. I can only imagine how much harder this would have been if he had done something worse. I also found it didn't make me happy at all to have someone put in jail. What would have made me happy would be getting to walk home safely, never being in this situation.
But like many women, I was put in this situation again. In August, I went to Savannah to visit a friend. On the second day there, I went for a jog at noon around the block. A man I saw sitting outside of a gas station followed and approached me, to which I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t have a lot of time, can I help you with something?” He asked if there was a gym in the neighborhood, I told him no and to have a nice day.
Well, apparently he thought I owed him more than good wishes because he continued following me. Then I heard him chase after me. I turned around and saw him with his grubby hand out, getting it ready to grope me. I acted fast, grabbing his wrist before he took what wasn’t his, and pushed him. I got in his face and shouted, “Don’t you fucking touch me. This is my ass, NOT yours, and you really don’t want to fuck with me.” He ran away as I called the police once more. They didn’t show up for twelve minutes. By that time he was long gone, with no hope of catching him in sight. They said they would continue to visit the gas station where he was hanging out at, and ask questions.
I should have felt safe because I successfully prevented him, and proved in a tight situation I could hold my own, but I didn’t feel safe at all. I was afraid to jog for the rest of my trip. I was afraid of what could have happened if he had a gun or a knife. It scared me that in broad daylight he still found me alone, and that it took the police that long to show up a second time. Instead of jogging, I celebrated life by eating delicious shrimp and grits every morning and, ironically, my butt got bigger.
Should I have been punished for going to a concert? Should I not be allowed to exercise? Of course not, people! I wanted to share this story (especially after the recent tragedy that happened to the 73-year-old woman in Central Park), to shed light on just what women have to go through they are assaulted. Reporting to the police isn't always rewarding, even when a culprit is caught. There’s no guarantee that the predator will be found, or that this won't happen again to the victim. If someone is arrested, there's imposing paperwork and interviews the victim has to conduct reliving the tale. But I also wanted to show hope in solidarity that more and more often a sense of justice can and will continue to be served.