I work in southern Italy during the summer and ride the trains to get to and from various places. On a Saturday, when returning from a visit, I was standing on the train with a few friends and a group of 20 year old guys got on. They were annoying, like a lot of guys that age can be – you know, talking loud, pushing each other around, etc. I turned my back to them and just kept talking with my friends. They started making smooching noises (kind of an Italian catcall) – I kept ignoring them. Then I felt someone grab my back. I really couldn’t believe it – trains get crowded, so I didn’t do anything. And then it happened again and I realized that this guy was grabbing me. And for the first time in my life, I froze. I didn’t know what to do at all. Here I am in a foreign country and I have no idea what to do. My sister (who works in India) would talk about women being grabbed and worse on the train – she herself had been groped. I remember getting angry at her for not doing anything about it – not telling anyone. But, standing on that train, being grabbed – I didn’t know what to do either. I was angry at myself for not standing up. I was angry at the guy in my group for not doing anything (although, he told me later, he was just as shocked too). All I could think about was “what if I do something and it just escalates?” I hate that feeling of powerlessness. And then I thought, well, it was just a grab – these things happen. But I’m still mad about it half a year later.
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