Just A Smack On The Ass: A Tale Of Sexual Assault, Vengeance And Nervous Swearing

Cross-posted from the ACLU blog

By Robyn Shepherd, ACLU

Last month, the ACLU’s Louise Melling blogged about how street harassment shames and humiliates women, and is underreported because of the stigma attached to it. While that blog was making the editing rounds here at the office, I shared my own story of how I dealt with a particularly obnoxious harasser, and my esteemed colleagues suggested I share it. Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, after all, here it is. And there’s gonna be swearing. I’m really sorry in advance (Mom).

I was walking to work last April, listening to a friend’s CD and not thinking of much besides that I was a little late to work, and really ought to hustle to make my train. A dude passed me as I walked, and I didn’t think much of that either.

All of a sudden…WHAM! Dude WALLOPED me on the backside and ran off.

No one saw it happen. But the gentle denizens of the Upper East Side sure knewsomething happened, because I let out an unholy yell and a good, throaty “FUCK YOU!!” I turned to see the dude hustling away in his blue and tan jacket and tan backpack.

I hesitated a moment. Did that really just happen? What should I do? Just go on with my day? I’m not sure I want to do that. And I’m pretty sure that if I just let this go, and act like it’s no big deal, or it was “just a smack on the ass,” I’m gonna feel pretty rotten about it for a long time to come. And my butt was really sore. He really went for it.

So I ran after the dude.

It’s possible this guy was crazy. This was something I needed to determine, and also I wanted to get a description, since by this point I had decided that if I was going to be late to work pursuing this mofo, I was damn well gonna call the police. I caught up to him as he was going into the Citibank.

“Hey asshole!” He looked up. He was about 20. Clean-cut. Like he was on his way to school. He did not look crazy. I think he was surprised. I think he figured the five-foot-tall redhead in the sundress and Mary Janes would have just said “Oh my stars!” and scampered away. He does not know this five-foot-tall redhead.

“You think that shit is funny? You like hitting women, huh? You think that’s the correct way to act? Whatsamatterwityou?” All of a sudden, I was Joe Pesci. I swear a lot when I’m nervous. It’s a terrible habit. Perhaps you’ve caught on.

“Ma’am I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know goddamn well what I’m talking about. YOU DON’T HIT WOMEN, ASSHOLE.” At this point I was screaming into the bank. The whole lobby was looking at me.

Dude got in my face. And this is where it gets kind of hilarious. “How dare you disrespect me in public?” he said. Oh. My. God. He. Did. Not. “I mean, call the police or something, but don’t embarrass me like that. Fuck you.”

It was now clear I was not necessarily dealing with a lunatic. But I was dealing with a moron.

“Good idea, buddy. I WILL call the police.” I called 911 and told them about the incident and the coordinates.

While I was on the phone he got in my face again. “Fuck you, bitch.”
Me: “Fuck ME? Fuck YOU!!!…

Me (to operator): “I’m sorry, ma’am it’s just he’s antagonizing me.”

Him: “You calling the police?”

Me: “Goddamn right I am.”

Him: “Fine. Fuck the police. Fuck you.”

Me: “Tell ‘em so yourself!”

He started walking away after that. The 911 lady advised me to stay put. Good call. I figured I had enough of him without backup. The police came a few minutes later, and I told them the story. I told them I knew they dealt with bigger things than this. But if it doesn’t get reported, it will keep happening. And maybe we can scare this dude enough that that will be one less guy hitting women in the street. The cops had me ride around in the car with them to see if we could find them. (Incidentally, those squad cars? Absolutely no legroom to speak of. In case you ever need extra incentive to not get arrested. Not comfy.)

We couldn’t find him, but the cops (there were four of them by the end of this) took my statement and contact info. They commended me on my description. Which is good, as that validates a lot of Law and Order viewing.

I’m realistic. I knew they were never going to arrest this guy. But here’s the thing, and the point to this whole long, profane story. I know there are a lot of people who think it wasn’t that big a deal. But the truth of the matter is, what this guy did was sexual assault. “Forcible touching and harassment,” if you want to get specific.

Sexual assault doesn’t always necessarily mean something as horrible as rape. And too often street harassment is unreported, and douchebags like this think they can get away with it because the girl is gonna be too embarrassed or too meek to do anything about it. Or they think it’s “just a slap on the ass.” And that’s not right, you guys. I don’t know how other women feel about their posteriors, but you don’t very well get to smack the hell out of it willy-nilly because you feel entitled to do so. There will be repercussions.

To the NYPD’s credit, they did follow up, and the detective told me that if I really wanted to press charges, she would help me do that, even if it meant looking through a lot of surveillance tape and looking at lineups and all that stuff. I opted not to, figuring that they had this guy’s description, and if he did it again, he’d be in a lot of trouble. But something tells me he’s not going to. I think I scared him. Or as the detective said, “So you ran up and confronted him and screamed at him in a bank.”

“Yep.”

“…Awesome.”

I know what happened to me could have been a lot, lot worse. But someone doesn’t have to be raped to be humiliated, violated and hurt. Sometimes, all it takes is a smack on the ass.

Author:

9 Responses

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  1. Beth says:

    I love that you followed him! So brave. And him chastising you for “embarrassing” him. I don’t get that….do men not understand that street harassment embarrasses and disrespects women? Or do they not care?

  2. jane says:

    I wish I trusted the police enough to think that telling them would be a good option. I am a victim a gang-rape-robbery, some years ago– I had a hard time getting the police to take it seriously. They never caught the guys, and accused me of being a prostitute becuase I had a nice computer… I’m a programmer, I make good money! I do not like the NYPD. They look down on people like me.

    I think they would laugh at me if I told them about some guy slapping my bottom.

    I think what you did was right. I can only hope the guy learned a lesson.

  3. Kate says:

    Thank you for posting this! I live on the UES and go running daily in CP. Just the other day, after my run a man surprised me from behind and groped my butt. I turned around and had much the same response as you describe. Yelled the same curse words and then wondered what the heck I was to do then?! Turns out within a span of about 5 minutes he went and did the same thing to 4 other woman! I was able to track down the police, etc, etc.

    I have to say, my immediate response was not fear, it was anger; but it left a residual feeling of fear and apprehension that I have not been able to shake. What if there hadn’t been people standing around when he’d done it? Maybe he would of gone farther.. Suddenly every male became suspicious and I became angered when I even felt a man’s eyes look at my body. I find myself wanting to scream in a very profane way, “I AM NOT AN OBJECT FOR YOUR ENJOYMENT!”

    Well, I could go on but I won’t. I stumbled upon this blog post while searching for self-defense classes to take. Thank you for posting this, you never really feel understood until you meet or speak with someone else who has gone through the same thing.

  4. ElizaA says:

    You are a glorious human being, I hope you know that.

  5. MS says:

    Very well done!
    And maybe you should have looked around and added:
    Girls, stay away from this guy – his hands are “loose” and “easy”, you know!
    Somehow, I often feel that women should reply in kind when men use demeaning terms.

  6. Esther says:

    What you did is what I think defines New Yorkers: expressive, strong and courageous. Nowhere in the world have I found verbally courageous and reasonable women who don’t stand for injustices in the world — no matter how seemingly small. I do wish more women would say something. I know they want to. I know it’s hard, but as you have proven, it’s more cathartic both for yourself and for society if you say something. I hope that guy got caught. I would have applauded in the bank had I seen you do it. On behalf of most women who get caught off guard by debase morons, I thank you.

  7. lilly says:

    This crap just happened to me today. I decided to go for a run after work. All was good. Baeutiful weather, I was pushing through almost finish with my 3rd mile and WHAM! Some piece of trash teenager riding pass on a bike with a group of other boys smacked my butt. Rage immediately welled up within me. I felt helpless, angry, taken a back, disgusted and violated. As he rode away, he turned back smiling at me. All I could picture was smashing his stupid little face into the concrete. I’m still pissed. He was on a bike so I wasn’t able to get a great look.Called the police but he was long gone so they were useless to me.I wish I had the chance to track him down like you did.I hate that this happened to me and although it seems like a small thing, its not at all. I’m still very much disgusted and pissed wishing I had a chance to catch the jerk. Its also sad because a young piece of trash like that only learns behavior like that from piece of trash parents….

  8. sophiecolette says:

    You. Are. Awesome.
    This story is INCREDIBLE. I love and respect you so much for chasing the stupid wanker down. I think I may have this image of you pop into my head the next time something like this happens to me (no, i won’t say if. I’m not that optimistic): a five-foot-tall redheaded woman in a sundress and maryjanes, screaming and hot on the perv’s trail like some urban avenging angel. This is always exactly what I want to do. Why don’t I always do it? Because I am afraid, or alone, or too tired, or too slow, or maybe my feet just hurt. But I should. Thank you for sharing your strength, sass, and general badassery. blessed be!~

  9. Hi there, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

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