So, A Bad Thing Happened To Me.
Firstly, I want to say thank you to the women in my life who have spoken and written about their experiences. Friends and ladies on /r/twoxchromosomes – reading about your experiences gave me the courage to stand up for myself, albeit shakily. Thank you.
This is also why I’m choosing to share my experience. I am standing here saying that what happened is NOT OKAY, and if it happens to you, you DO NOT have to just let it go.
Yesterday afternoon around 4, I was walking down 2nd street back to my office after an afternoon walk to get some fresh air. There was a homeless man laying at the foot of the front steps of an office building. I didn’t pay particular attention, because if you have ever walked anywhere near market street you’ll know this is a common attribute of the local landscape.
I walked past, when suddenly he rose up and grabbed me, and groped me with both hands. I’d rather not have to go through retelling the details again. He grabbed my waistband where I keep my work ID badge clipped, either to try to remove it or use it to pull me closer to him. As I yelled and wrestled my badge back, he groped me again. I quickly jumped back, and yelled very loudly at him not to touch me. He smiled, and just reached out again. The whole thing happened very fast.
I quickly continued walking toward my office, still in shock about what happened. When I reached the end of the block, I decided, “No. That’s not okay.” I could have gone back to my office and tried to forget about it, but I decided to stand up for myself. I have the right to walk on the sidewalk in my own city without being sexually assaulted. I decided that what happened was wrong, and if I “just let it go”, he was just going to sit there and keep grabbing women who walk by.
I waited a half a block away, hiding nervously behind a bus stop trying to see if he was still sitting there while I called the police. They were very busy with the Giants game, and Dreamforce in that district. I was ultimately on hold with 911 for 12 minutes. I called the police at 4:03. I waited on the sidewalk, cold, shaking, until the police arrived 45 minutes later. I was watching the time on my phone, counting the minutes and the seconds, trying to convince myself not to leave and just try to pretend it never happened.
It did happen, and it was not okay. When the squad car arrived, I identified the man who assaulted me. I then had to describe and demonstrate to four police officers exactly where he touched me. With which hands. How long. How hard. It was tremendously uncomfortable. I had to say “butt” and “between my legs” to a group of police officers. Saying things out loud makes them real.
After verbally explaining what happened, I also had to write it down on paper and go through it all over again. While I was giving my statement and filling out paperwork, the sidewalk began to fill with crowds leaving the baseball game. I tried to ignore their staring and chatter, as they watched the man being wrestled into the backseat of the police cruiser, and then noticed me writing my statement. “That’s probably her.” “Dude, that’s the girl who got assaulted.” They stared, and turned to stare. I tried not to let my eyes water.
This is not an issue of homelessness, or of mental health. It is about right and wrong, and attacking or sexually assaulting a stranger on the street without their consent. I explained to the officers that I am sure this kind of attack is fairly common, to which they agreed – but I stood my ground and said that it shouldn’t be, and I wasn’t going to let it go. I chose to press charges, and they took him away to charge him with misdemeanor sexual battery. I’m sure it is unlikely he will show up for his court date, but at least this way if it happens again he will be arrested immediately. With a conviction, he will also be registered as a Sex Offender.
I finally made it back to my office, 1.5 hours after it all started. I took a ridiculously expensive surge priced Uber home, and tried to sleep. The whole thing was emotionally exhausting, and made me feel so alone. I woke up this morning still feeling shaken, and violated. I went and bought pepper spray on my way to work this morning. I’m a little worried I’ll accidentally spray myself.
I am quite sure there are those who would consider this an overreaction, but it was violating, and frightening, and wrong. No one deserves to be assaulted like that. (And before I get any “What were you wearing” questions, I was wearing a full business suit. NO ONE is asking for it.) I chose the markedly uncomfortable path of doing something about it, because what happened is not okay. Complacency in response to sexual assault is a poison.
To my friends who’ve written about similar experiences, thank you for your courage. For those who’ve never experienced anything like this, don’t be afraid – but also don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. What happened was not okay. I am not okay.