I haven’t taken the bus alone at night since.

This occurred back in July and although I wanted to write about it then, I wanted to forget it even more. In having to choose what category of harassment it falls into in order to send this story in, I’m even now embarrassed at my difficulty in labeling it. I don’t know that it counts as assault, even though it definitely didn’t feel like groping.

It was 10pm on a Friday night and I was waiting on a well lit block, in front of an active open restaurant, for the bus that I take everyday. Instead of heading to or from work, I was on my way to a small joint birthday party for two friends. Since I knew I’d be traveling there and back alone, I’d already decided to leave a little earlier than I needed to and had consciously decided to leave my bag at home and travel light so I’d be less of a target for theft. I’d also chosen to wear a more conservatively cut and oversized shirt than I would otherwise have worn on such a warm night.

Ten minutes into my wait for the bus, I was watching traffic to see if it was approaching my stop. I suddenly felt something slam against my backside. It didn’t feel like someone tried to cop a feel, and it didn’t feel like someone slapped my ass as they were passing by. It felt like someone wound up and hit me as hard as they could with something flat. I imagined a stack of books or a box and instantly thought maybe I was in the way of someone making a delivery to the diner or moving something out of the apartment entrance next door. I glanced around, embarrassed and blushing, and realized that none of the many other people walking across the street or crossing at the corner were paying attention, even though the smack had sounded obvious and loud to me. I spun around and realized that the only other people close to me were three guys who looked to be in their early 20’s, dressed for a night out. They were two feet away from me at that point and were continuing up the block laughing, the one in the middle of the group looking back at me and grinning.

I pointed at them and shouted “hey,fuck you!” feeling suddenly ashamed and angry. I’m not usually shy about addressing comments or gestures that are aimed at me or other women in public, but as soon as the group slowed their pace a little, I realized just how much bigger and heavier than me each of those guys was and how little attention was being paid to the situation by passers by. The middle guy waved me over and smiled, “yeah, fuck me!” and kept walking away as his friends laughed.

I waited the next ten minutes for the bus, with my hands shaking, still physically hurting and trying not to cry. Until the bus arrived I debated whether or not to walk to the police station that is three blocks away from that intersection, but imagined being laughed at by police officers once I described that a stranger had essentially spanked me. I also realized that I didn’t see any of the guys’ faces straight on and they were pretty nondescript young brown haired white guys with accents very common in my area. I wouldn’t have hesitated to report it if he had hit me that hard on any other part of my body, but this felt much more mortifying and even harder to verbalize to a stranger. And feeling that way made me even angrier.

I debated going home, but was worried that I’d run into the group of guys on the way to my nearby apartment. I wasn’t in the mood for a party and didn’t want to explain why and spoil the mood for the birthday friends, since I knew they’d be livid. But, I was too upset to want to be alone. I got on the bus when it came, and got off a stop early when I saw that two friends of mine were closing up the shop where we worked. I told them what had happened and sat and talked with them for a while before walking over to the party, where I hung back until feeling better and could walk home with some neighbors.

After that I worried that the guys who did it would recognize me in the neighborhood but that I wouldn’t recognize them. In writing this I realize I haven’t taken the bus alone at night since then, even though it was just a spanking. In other neighborhoods and cities I’ve been followed on my walk home, verbally threatened, flashed and groped but never felt as embarrassed or ashamed as this had made me feel.

Submitted by Laura

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  1. Grey says:

    Yes, that’s assault. And battery.

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