Erin’s Story: “Any one of us can be so taken aback that we don’t know how to react”

In 2003, my childhood best friend and I took a trip to NYC to celebrate her birthday. We got second row tickets to an amazing play, staring her favorite actor. It was supposed to be an amazing trip for us, something to remember for a lifetime. Sadly, I will remember it for all the wrong reasons.

We took the subway during rush hour to get to Times Square in time for what I think was a 7:00 performance. We were all dressed up, each wearing cocktail dresses among a sea of bland commuters. The train was utterly packed to the gills. We stood, sharing a pole, facing each other on the train. When there are that many people cramped in a tight space, you are bound to get bumped and jostled by backpacks and suitcases. I found my rear being repeatedly “bumped” by what I initially thought was a suitcase. I began to get suspicious and used a technique that my friend and I had employed many times in the past. I made it clear to her I was a little suspicious about what was going on behind me without saying a word. I quickly stepped to the side, so as to leave whatever was going on behind me immediately exposed to her line of vision. The look on her face was not at all what I expected to see, as it reflected what she had not expected to see—a short man with his pants unzipped, and his erect penis hanging out.

That “bump” was him continually rubbing his penis up against my rear end. Thankfully, we were coming to our station. I was completely shocked and had no idea how to react. I will be forever grateful to my friend for grabbing my hand and running up the steps. We started screaming “Rape” on the top of our lungs. Disturbingly enough, the man began to follow us. Somehow we lost him in the crush of people.

Disoriented and upset, we made it to our performance. I was too disturbed to leave my seat during intermission. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone getting close to me in the lobby. After the show, we had a wonderful experience meeting the actors. I was so bothered by the thought of getting back on the subway, I called a male friend of mine from nearby and he escorted us on the train back to our hotel. While waiting for him, a mounted police officer happened to come by. I stopped him and asked if I could tell him something, even though I knew he couldn’t do anything about it. He was so kind and understanding and his attention to me in that moment actually helped.

I am not the kind of woman to not react–especially to this kind of abuse. This is just evidence that any one of us can be so taken aback that we don’t know how to react. To this day, I am totally paranoid about using public transportation of any kind. This is in part due to a bus driver that harassed me in my home town shortly before the subway incident.

All told, that (literal) jerk-off took a great red cocktail dress from me, a feeling of safety on public transportation, and what should have been an unmarred vacation with my best friend.

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