Steph’s Story: “He had no respect for my personal boundaries

I was at the Bethesda metro station on my way back home from work. Ordinarily, I would only have to wait a couple of minutes to catch my train, but track maintenance was causing delays of up to 20 minutes between trains. I was sitting on the bench, texting a friend, when a man sat down next to me, uncomfortably close, and started asking a flurry of questions, like what my name was, if I had a boyfriend, what was I doing in Bethesda, etc. I was stunned, and so I answered that yes, I did have a boyfriend, hoping that it would make him back off. Instead, he started asking if I had any female friends that would want to date him, if I was “in love, or just playing around” with my boyfriend, and if I thought he was attractive. Other passengers waiting around were looking at us, but made no motion to interfere, even though I’m sure I looked visibly uncomfortable. I gave him only negative answers, that no, all my female friends had boyfriends, yes I was in love and didn’t want to date him, but he still persisted.
I thought it would be over when the train arrived, but when I found a seat, he sat down right next to me and began asking me for my phone number. My phone was still in my hand, and when I said no, he grabbed my phone and put in his number and called himself. At that point, I was too shocked to do anything. This guy was clearly not getting the hint, and he had no respect for my personal boundaries. I left the train at the next stop (Thankfully it was mine!) and he said he would call me. I didn’t give any indication that I had heard him.
I felt panicked the whole way home. I kept checking behind me as I exited the station, and I practically sprinted until I reached my front door. I relayed all this to my boyfriend, and he was furious. When the man called, as promised, my boyfriend chewed him out about harassing women on the metro. I felt so weak that I had to have my boyfriend stand up for me, but at the time, I was just so confused and shocked that I felt powerless to do anything, let alone hollaback. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, namely, that this treatment is absolutely unacceptable, and other people won’t get involved; you have to make a stand for yourself.
A note to any unaccompanied female metro travelers in the DC area: If a man in his early 30s named Carl or Carlton approaches you like this, remind him that his harassment is unwelcome and unwanted!

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2 Responses

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  1. Sandy says:

    It’s unfortunate that creeps like to pester young women by asking them “Do you have a boyfriend?”. I’ve experienced this myself, and I find that answering either “yes” or “no” doesn’t turn out well. If you say “no”, the male in question considers that to be an invitation, and if you say “yes”, the harasser presses for more details. I find that responding “I’d rather not answer that question” in a very stern, disapproving manner tends to shut harassers up pretty quickly.

  2. Golden Silence says:

    Trust me, I’ll be on the lookout for Carl and his lame games.

    You do not have to sit there and take that. If someone sits next to you and makes you uncomfortable, get up and move if you can. Use the emergency buttons on the train.

    “I find that responding “I’d rather not answer that question” in a very stern, disapproving manner tends to shut harassers up pretty quickly.”

    I disagree with your view that “no” doesn’t work. If said just as sternly, it can. I feel your statement could make harassers press for more info with a “Why not?” response. If you say “no” coolly, quickly, and calmly, it shuts them up.

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