By now the story of Cyan Brown, the 16 year old who fatally stabbed a man on Thursday, has been heard around the city. Chased by “seven or eight” men who were trying to drag her off the train and sexually assault her, Cyan had two options: fight back or get hurt.
Like all of us, Cyan had probably been harassed and maybe even assaulted before. She knew what it meant to have lewd comments made about her body. Perhaps she had been stalked before, or been the unwilling witness to public masturbation. Like all of us, Cyan knew very well what the long term emotional impact of harassment and assault felt like, and this time she wanted a different ending.
When we ask our readers why the ‘hollaback,’ the most frequent response is that they were tired of “doing nothing.” This makes sense. Harassment and assault are on a spectrum of violence against women. A study of rape victims found that the ones that fought back – even if they were unsuccessful – were less likely to be depressed or have PTSD afterwards. Fighting back, it seems, is good for you. The problem is – we shouldn’t have to.
While we at HollabackNYC do not support violence in any form, Cyan had no other options. When violence is the only answer, something is terribly, terribly wrong with our city.
We stand in solidarity with Cyan and her family during this difficult time.
This is an update to the post “I didn’t think he’d be able to get one past me” from December 4th.
WOW. I just wanted to write and give an update to my story. As I said, I was so shaken up that I didn’t have the mind to get off the train after the assault and find a police officer. I knew that I would definitely report it but the man was pretty non-descript and got off amidst hundreds of other people so I didn’t think it would matter if I reported it right then or the next day.
It happened on Wednesday evening during rush hour and I found the number for the NYC sex crimes hotline (212) 267-RAPE finally yesterday and called. They were so nice and called me back after having spoken with the transit precinct in my area that would handle the situation. She asked me if I would be willing to go out there and look through some mugshots and press charges. I was beside myself–I felt grateful someone had even answered the phone, let alone that they were taking the situation seriously. I said absolutely and took the train straight out to the precinct, which is actually located in the Van Wyck Blvd. subway station in Queens.
The officer was expecting me and got some initial information and had her partner take the full report. I described the guy to the best of my ability–I gave estimates of his weight and height and I could remember some of the details of his face and what he was wearing. She asked if I would be able to pick him out of some photos and I said sure I would try. She asked why I didn’t report it after it happened because there had been an officer on that platform at that time and it could have facilitated the process. I just told her because I was shaken up and didn’t think it would make a difference. I just wasn’t prepared for something like that to happen and didn’t want to get off at the same stop as the creep, either.
The two detectives I needed to speak with had gotten called out to something so she said unfortunately I would need to come back to look through the photos and I said that wasn’t a problem and her partner offered to walk me out to the train. As we were walking out the two detectives walked up and I was elated. I couldn’t believe the good fortune. They took me into their office and apologized for having me repeat the story but they needed to get as many details as possible. They set me up on a computer and offered me water and asked if I needed to use the phone since there wasn’t any cell phone reception down there. We entered some search parameters in the database and I began clicking through dozens of pages of criminals. There were whole pages of people who looked nothing like my assailant and I just clicked through. Given the nature of the crime I wasn’t so sure he would be in the system–because he hadn’t committed a rape or outright exposed himself and I know that “smaller crimes” like public groping and indecency are reported, let alone prosecuted, with much much less frequency.
I asked how advanced the system was and if I could set aside certain photos that were more similar than others just to kind of give them a more general idea of what he looked like but unfortunately that wasn’t really possible. There were thousands and thousands of photographs and so another detective entered some more specific criteria and revised the search while another brought out a new binder with print outs of criminals that have been arrested more recently. I was pretty sure the mugshot efforts would be futile but I was so grateful for the incredibly respectful and smooth experience I was having with reporting such a gross and heinous, albeit sometimes shrugged off, crime. I really couldn’t believe it.
I opened the binder and started flipping through a few pages while the detectives pulled out even more binders that I could look through next. I had maybe flipped through about 10 pages and I turned a page and my heart just nearly stopped. My legs went absolutely limp and I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. My heart started racing and my hands were shaking and I said “omigosh–my heart is racing and my legs are limp and there’s adrenaline pumping and I don’t know why I would have this experience if this weren’t him” And the female detective laughed and said “Well that’s a pretty good sign.” And I said “that’s the guy.” And the male detective asked me with what percentage of certainty I could say that it was him and I felt so surreal, couldn’t believe I was actually picking someone out of a book of mugshots and that out of a city of 8 million people, this perp was actually in the book, and I said “100% that is the guy.” He had been arrested only once before, three years ago, within a week of the crime against me, for something similar. His physical statistics matched what I had given them in my report almost to a T. In the report I had remembered some freckles on his nose and we zoomed in to the photo and sure enough-little brown freckles.
So there’s a search warrant out for this guy and one of the officers had just seen him on the train the day that I went in. He’s definitely out there and no stranger to NYC’s pervy little world. They said that if and when they pick him up they’ll bring him in and I’ll stand behind a glass window and I’ll pick him out of a lineup. I have no idea what to make of the situation–filing the report for my own personal sanity and reponsibility and having an officer take it down and not shrug it off or tell me there was nothing they could do about it was beyond my own wildest expectations. That all this has happened as a result is absolutely incredible and mind boggling. If this creep is picked up and released or picked up and questioned and it makes him think twice about prowling around and spreading his misery and disease to others I will be happy. If this creep is picked up and I am able to press charges…well I have no idea what kind of effect that would have on me. But a big amount of justice took place yesterday and for that I am happy.
In today’s AMNY: Transit cop charged with raping teen. Thanks to Heather Haddon, one of our HOLLAheroes, for reporting this awful crime. When station booth attendants are being cut left and right, every man counts.
“A 29-year-old transit cop charged with raping an 18-year-old woman is scheduled to face a judge on Wednesday.
Shawqi Ahmed, an officer since January 2006, was arrested by the NYPD Friday. Ahmed allegedly met the woman at a Brooklyn club on Thanksgiving and raped her in an apartment later that night, according to published reports. The NYPD would not confirm the details of the incident yesterday.
“It’s particularly a travesty considering this was someone people depend on to keep them safe,” said Emily May of Holla Back, a Web site documenting harassment and sexual abuse in New York City.
The case will go to a grand jury at Kings County Criminal Court, a DA spokesman said.”
Sunday December 6, 2009 6:28 PM By Heather Haddon
I’ve never felt unsafe before. That may be surprising, as I live in New York City, but I’ve never really feared for my physical safety. I’m a big lady and I’ve always felt comfortable walking or biking or taking the train at any hour of the day or night.
Last night, two men on a dark street stripped me of that sense of security.
I was riding my bike home from my friend’s house around 1:30AM. I had dressed up for Shabbat services in a cute, short dress and was feeling a little chilly. I was riding mechanically slowly, really only looking forward to getting home so I could curl up in my warm bed and watch some dumb recorded tv shows.
I ride through some pretty desolate areas on this route. Keep in mind, I’ve ridden this route several times a week since I started biking. I’ve ridden it at four in the morning before. It is the only way I use to get home when I’ve gone anywhere east of Prospect Park.
I approached the overpass of the D train on 39th street right near my apartment and passed two men. All of the sudden I heard someone running behind me and I turned around to see one of them chasing me on my bike. He was running full out only a few feet behind me. I screamed out “What the fuck are you doing?” and started pedaling as fast as I could. They screamed “bitch” at me and threw a glass bottle which shattered near my tires.
I was three blocks from my home.
I rode at full speed the last three blocks. When I got to my house, my hands were shaking so badly I could hardly lock up my bike. I was terrified that the men would have followed me home. I ran up my stairs and locked the door, finding an empty apartment. I sat on my bed shivering with fear, unable to really process what had just happened.
When I looked back at that man chasing me, I truly thought that he would overtake me and pull me off my bike. There aren’t a lot of street lights in that area and even less people out on the street. If they had wanted to take my bag, they could have. If they had wanted to sexually assault me and slit my throat, they could have. These are the thoughts that kept me awake as I huddled in my bed, to scared even to cry.
I don’t know what they’ve left me. I ride my bike every single day. I ride it to work, to friend’s houses, to the grocery store, to rehearsal, to meetings, to parties, and anywhere I want to go. I haven’t bought a monthly metrocard since June. My bike is an essential part of how I interact with the city. It’s my life. Yet now, when I think about riding in some of the areas where I travel on a regular basis — I am terrified. What if this happens again? What if next time I’m not fast enough? What if they do get me off my bike? I’m so scared, but I’m not allowed to be — I need my bike.
How can I reclaim the sense of physical security that they’ve taken from me?
Submitted by Emma
This keeps happening to my friends in Crown Heights (brooklyn) where I live: there is a man that walks around (maybe about 5’11”, burly very chubby) with a big dirty black quilted coat on who shuffles up to women, and SPITS on them! He has tried to spit on me twice. It’s TERRIFYING and has happened while it was still dark out before I went to work. I saw him again (on Nostrand Avenue) Friday night, but was with my boyfriend. He beelined toward me, but saw my boyfriend and shuffled off.
I have heard two other people say this man has spit directly on them! I was hoping maybe someone out there would know more about who this crazy brooklyn spitter is?
Submitted by A. T. S.
On Sunday afternoon a random stranger attacked my friend. He came up from behind us with no warning and when I asked him why he claimed that she had bumped into him and not apologized. He knocked her teeth loose and she is covered in bruises and scrapes from how hard she hit the ground. I followed him several blocks up University Place and when I grabbed his shirt to try to keep him from running away he punched me multiple times and bit me before several guys wrestled him to the ground in front of the Whole Foods in Union Square. That’s when I got these photos.
Submitted by Cori
One day as I walked a friend to the train station, I noticed a man in my periphery against a wall by the station, I walked her down and then noticed on my way up that the man against the wall was still there and now trying to get my attention. So oh course my first response is to ignore the bastard, but this man proceeded to follow me. Only a few feet from the station, he proceeded to use his body to corner me up against a wall. My instinct told me to push him away. However, when I pushed I was so scared that I didn’t know my own strength, I shoved him back. He stumbled a few feet backwards and became enraged. I saw in his eyes that he was going to hurt me, so I ran.
Of course, it was the only moment that I have seen this area so empty that I had to run and be chased a full block until I found some people on the street. They were a construction crew. I ran in between them and pointed at the crazy man chasing me. They used their body to block the crazy guy and told me to run home. As I was running home, I could still hear this crazy guy screaming at me about what he would do. As soon as I got home, I locked all the doors and thought about how frightening this was. I was scared. Scared like a child who thinks about monsters. How can one person make another person feel like this in one moment. I am truly sick and tired of this harassment. Since coming to NYC, I understand why people become agoraphobic. Enough is enough. I will not be silenced.
For awhile, I tried to figure out what it is about me that lured these violators to single me out. Is it the way I walk? Is it because I am so short and small? Is it because I seem weak? Is it because of the way I dress?….In the end, why the fuck does any of this matter. It is just plain unacceptable.
Enough is enough.
Submitted by Michelle
I was at the Carroll street stop off the G/F at 2:30am on a Thursday reading a book on the bench along with 5 other people and the f train came (not my train… waiting for the G) and this guy next to me (early thirties wearing an ipod) tries to force himself on me as I am screaming and pushing him off. He runs on to the train, and no one says or does anything. It all happened so fast, didn’t get a photo, totally shocked and horrified. WTF! Ladies beware of perverts late night on this stop.
Submitted by Leah
Wouldn’t you want someone to have your back if this happened to you? Help us make this a reality by donating today!
I’m writing to report an incident that happened to me on the subway today. At approximately 9:30am on the D train going between Atlantic-Pacific St. and Grand St. (right before the Manhattan Bridge), I awoke to the sight of a man masturbating on my arm.
I was napping with my iPod on, and I woke up because I felt something repeatedly hitting and rubbing up to my arm. When I looked down, I saw an uncircumcised penis being masturbated right on top of my arm. Luckily, he hadn’t finished yet. (Though the police mentioned that it would have been better to have DNA evidence. Ew.) I immediately screamed something like “OH MY GOD, GET OFF OF ME YOU SICK MOTHERFUCKER!”
At that point, the man mumbled something like “sorry” and walked quickly through the crowd to the other side of the train. I was stunned that no one tried to stop him, and even shifted to let him through. I screamed again “DID ANYONE SEE THAT? THAT ASSHOLE WAS MASTURBATING ON ME!”
No one did anything. No one saw his penis, because my arm was covering it.
So I took my camera-phone out and went after him. He had taken a seat more towards the front of the carriage and pretended to be asleep. I snapped these two pictures of him (attached). And then when I was done, I screamed again “I’VE GOT YOUR PICTURE NOW, YOU SICK FUCK. I’M GOING TO REPORT YOU TO THE POLICE!” Of course, this got the attention of everyone around us and everyone was staring at us except the pervert who was still pretending to be asleep. There was no way he didn’t hear me. So I went back to my seat.
Later I did report him to the police, and am still waiting to hear back.
Submitted by Alice
From our friends at Gothamist:
After two young women refused a Brooklyn man’s advances during a late night pizza stop last month, the failed pick-up turned into a violent assault, leaving one women with a fractured jaw and another nearly blinded. One of the victims, a 26-year-old student who would only identify herself as Christine, tells the Post she was eating pizza with her friend at 3:50 a.m. at John & Tony’s Pizzeria on First Avenue at 60th Street on March 20th, when they were approached by 31-year-old Dzemal Kolenovic. Christine (pictured) says that after she responded to his advances by asking him to leave her alone, he became abusive, yelling, “F- – – you, bitches. You whores.” And when they stepped outside, Kolenovic was waiting, and allegedly threw Christine to the sidewalk. She says, “I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and he said, ‘Because I’m Albanian, I can do whatever the f- – – I want.’ ” Her friend tried to dial 911 on her cellphone, but Kolenovic smacked it out of her hands and fractured her jaw, according to police. He then continued beating Christine, who recalls that “first he punched me once in the right eye and then he got really wound up and hit my left eye. I had bruises all over. My arm, my knees were all cut, and my lower back. Both my eyes were swollen shut.”
She was partially blind for a time, and doctors say she may require several surgical procedures. As for Kolenovic, police were able to track him down via restaurant credit-card receipts! He turned himself in to police last Wednesday and was charged with two counts of felony assault. He’s since been released on $5,000 bail to do “whatever the f – – – he wants,” and that has Christine understandably worried: “My main concern is that he doesn’t come after me and he doesn’t do this to anyone else.”