One day, on my way to work on 54th street when I was around 23, my crotch and butt were repeatedly grabbed on the subway.
I was standing on a totally jammed train car when I felt something brush against my butt. I shrugged it off as an errant messenger bag. And then I was brushed harder. My brain thought, “Wait a minute.” And the hair on my arms stood up at attention. Danger, my body warned.
And so I did what any normal woman would do in that situation.
I totally and completely froze.
This is me, trying to process:
My brain while being touched: Not a bag, Dorothy! That is not a bag!
My brain in the pauses in-between the touching: Hmmm. Maybe I was wrong and it’s just a bag?
Six seconds later: THAT IS NOT A BAG.
All the while, some part of me was whispering: Just make it to the next stop, D, and then jump off.
So that’s what I did. But before the doors could open, the Behind Guy grabbed me for one final go ’round. He really got his finger in there before I could sprint for the exit.
I ran fast onto the 6 train across the platform and grabbed a seat, praying for the doors to close. But they didn’t. They stayed open. “Why aren’t they closing!” I frantically thought. “Why aren’t they closing?!”
And then a man ran onto the train.
“Miss! Miss!” he quickly came up to me. “I need you to come with me.”
“What did I do wrong?” I thought. Because that is the way my brain works. After being sexually assaulted on the subway, I figure I did something wrong.
The man then pulled out his badge which was on a chain underneath his shirt.
“I’m an undercover police officer. We saw everything but we couldn’t get to you in time.”
I went with him onto the platform. He pointed to his partner who had the guy who was touching me (I guess as I never saw him) pinned to a subway column and was cuffing him.
It took a while to process. I think I probably made a joke (my go-to defense). And then I started crying.
The cop patted my arm.
And then I totally and unbelievably fell in love with him and looked for a wedding ring on his finger (I was hopelessly single at the time).
He was kind and sympathetic and said “this sort of shit happens all the time.”
I remember being so mad at myself because I was at least 6 inches taller than the guy who grabbed me. I could have just turned around and pushed him and settled it there.
Why didn’t I just turn around?
I don’t know. This was the time before women filmed and uploaded videos of perverts on the subway. This was before I knew women had a voice and before I knew men really did such things. Before the chorus of angry women rose up on social media about consent and about how Someone. Touching. Your. Body. Is. Not. Okay. (Keep talking, ladies. Keep talking.)
Plus, I was 23 and probably super hungover. I just wanted to get to my desk, you know?
But if this happened again (which it probably won’t as I’m now 36 and basically an old, wizened crone), I’m still not sure if I would turn around. Because that takes some part of my brain I’m not sure I ever cultivated. (I’m working on it.)
Anyway, back to the early 2000’s, where the cop (Patrick Walsh, be still my heart!) asked me if I wanted to press charges.
And this is perhaps the most fucked up part of the entire thing: I said I didn’t know!
WTF, 20-something Dorothy! WHAT THE EVERLASTING FUCK??!!
In my defense, it was so hot down in that subway. I felt so gross. Trains just kept going by us on the platform and I was becoming super late for work. I just wanted it to be over with.
Luckily, Patrick Walsh told me I really should press charges so The Pervert wouldn’t do it again.
So I did. Basically, so Patrick Walsh would think I was super brave and amazing and fall in love with me and marry me so we could live out in Long Island and make multiple Irish-American babies together. (But that’s neither here nor there.)
A few weeks later, a prosecutor called me. I gave my statement. It turns out, this was The Pervert’s fourth offense for inappropriate touching on the subway. “Geez. How many undercover cops are there on the subway?” I thought. I also thought, “How many women did he touch and get away with it?”
I’m not sure what happened after that. I never heard from the cop or the lawyer again so I’m guessing he took a plea deal of some sort.
In closing, I can’t say this scarred me for life. I hardly ever think about it. I mean, as these stories can go, it’s pretty tame.
But if anything makes me angry, it’s this: That men don’t have to worry about being inappropriately touched while they go to work. Or while they’re walking down the street. Or just going about their day-to-day life.
What an amazing luxury. Do they understand what a luxury this is? I don’t think they do. Do they realize that women will read this and nod while a lot of men will read and wonder what I was wearing? (A long skirt, t-shirt and sandals at 7 am. in the morning. Not exactly “asking for it” territory.)
And this is why women everywhere are freaking the fuck out about what Donald Trump said. Not that he said the word “pussy” — but because he was talking about grabbing women without their consent.
And this is not okay.
Because it’s not fair. And it’s not right. And the more you read about it and the more you hear about how this is not okay, the better off we’ll all be.
So this is my story.
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