Maggie’s story: #bystanderfail

My sister and I were visiting our cousin and her boyfriend in D.C., and we were taking the metro back home around 10pm one evening. We are all in our mid- to late 20s. We had a fairly long ride so we were sitting and chatting, and the car was relatively quiet, with about 15 other people in the car with us. At some point I notice a fellow around our age, by himself, trying to get our attention. I can’t really understand what he’s saying but it’s clear that he’s a) drunk and b) only interested in us girls. My usual tactic in this type of situation is to just ignore – in most cases, people like this give up quickly. So I try to continue our conversation as normally as possible. However, the man gets more agitated and walks up to us, getting pushy and asking why we won’t talk to him. I respond by saying in a lighthearted but firm manner that he’s being annoying, and we’re just trying to have a conversation amongst ourselves. All the while, there is a middle-aged couple sitting in front of me with their heads down – literally (thanks a lot, guys!). The man becomes more aggressive, calling us bitches, remarking how white girls are all stuck up, telling us he wants to make a porno video with us, telling my cousin’s boyfriend that he “must be gay” and then takes out his smartphone and starts videotaping, shoving it in our faces and daring us to say something back to him. I am freaking outside because I am incredibly angry, not to mention going into Mama Bear mode because my younger sister and cousin are there and I am feeling overwhelmingly protective of them. I didn’t want to do anything stupid, but I hated the feeling that I was being pushed around. However, I’m in a city I’m not familiar with – don’t even know where the emergency stop button is, or if there is security on the train or the station. I just kept trying to convey strength through body language, without directly interacting him in the event that he was armed or otherwise dangerous.

I actually don’t even remember why he eventually left us alone, I think at one point he moved away and we moved further down the car. After the guy left, one of the other passengers came up to us and said (smiling) “Like, what did you guys do to him?” At the time he said it, I just wanted to shake the whole thing off, but afterwards I was so angry at that random guy – where was he when it was actually happening? What made him think that WE had done something to start it all? It was his attitude that upset me more than anything. I understand that the other passengers may have also been scared, but there were more of us than him. And I imagine most of the other people were DC natives and knew what security options there are on the metro. That’s why I chose to share this story – harassment is awful, but it’s just as awful (or maybe worse) when other people witness it and do absolutely nothing.

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