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Earlier this afternoon, I was working on my laptop at the Steven A. Schwarzman branch of the New York Public Library, when I noticed a man, seated one desk away across from me, staring at me. I tried to ignore it at first, but he kept staring even when I stared right back at him to let him know I was aware of what he was doing. I noticed he had one hand on the desk and the other one under the desk, and suspected he was up to mischief. However, since I couldn’t really see, I did not say anything. I did not want to change seats because I already switched seats earlier (another story). Besides, I did not want to be intimidated into moving. At some point, the guy got up from his seat and shifted some chairs around so that my line of vision to his legs were blocked. Moments later, he got up and moved the chairs around again to clear my line of vision and I knew something was up (no pun intended). A few minutes later, he was back in his chair, staring at me and masturbating.
I took out my iPhone to photograph him and he quickly shielded his face with his hand. He then got up to leave and all I got was a picture of him walking away, his face turned to the side. I followed him, knowing he would encounter a security check point. He walked through–the security guard seemed to recognize him and they exchanged goodbyes. I told the security guard what happened, who shook his head and said, “This is the third time someone has reported this about him.” WTF? I looked at him incredulously and asked why nothing was being done, why he didn’t go after the guy. He said he could not leave his station and shrugged. I insisted that he contacted some one through his radio–the man would have to go through another security checkpoint–which he finally did, but by that time, the guy–as I later learned–had already left the building.
I got my things and was escorted to the library’s security office to report the incident. Two men in suits came to speak to me. As I was explaining what happened, one of them began to defend the guard for not leaving his station and said that the perpetrator had likely left the building. Meanwhile, the other suit whisked away my phone to another office without asking me. I insisted on knowing what was going on and followed the man who took my phone; he had plugged it into his computer at his desk. I politely reminded him that he had not asked for my permission and he returned my phone without, I think, downloading any files. It was not that I did not want to share the photo but that no one was telling me what was going on. One of them instructs a guard to begin filing a report. “For sexual harassment?” the guard asks. “No, for public lewdness.”
The suits then asked if I wanted to talk to the police and press charges, and since I felt like I wasn’t sure what the library was going to do about the incident, I said yes. While waiting, one of the suits asks me to look at surveillance images of a library exit to identify the man (again, it was his profile image) and “as best as I could tell,” it was him. 35 minutes later, the police came. After hearing my story, they explained that there was nothing they could do; even if they had caught him, no charges could be pressed since he had not “indecently exposed” himself. In the presence of the police officers, one of the suits told me that he had seen the perp around before, recognized him and will “ban” him from the library the next time he comes by. One of the police officers then walked me to a subway stop and advised me on how to respond should I ever see the man at the library again.
Years ago as a teenager, I had been harassed and was paralyzed with shock, fear and self-doubt, unable to respond. I’m glad that I had the presence of mind to react this time and not be intimidated, but oh, I am so angry with that guy for being so demeaning and for stealing my precious writing time. What upsets me more is that I had to insist before the security staff took any action and, worse, the security staff seem to have had previous reports about this man but never ever followed up because who knows why. Is it really too much to ask to be taken seriously when reporting an incident of sexual harassment?
Submitted by Fiona
I was sitting on the 2 train at approximately 8:45 pm tonight. This man very purposefully stood above me, though it wasn’t a crowded train at all. He had his hand in his pocket, and was clearly touching himself while staring at me. He was holding honda 3-d glasses. I don’t know why. I took this picture of his face and said “excuse me pervert” and got up and off the train. I am still nearly hyperventilating. Please post this. I don’t want anyone else to feel this way.
Submitted by Annie
This morning I was waiting at the bus stop, on my way to work, when a skeezy looking dude sat near me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that SOMETHING was going on. When I looked, he had everything out and was, shall we say, choking the chicken. I was the only person around. For a moment I was just shocked and didn’t know what to do, but then I remembered reading about street harassment and how important it is to react. So I did. I yelled and caused a scene. Sadly, no one else witnessed my brilliant display of swearing and gesticulating, but anyway, he left. I only wish I had said something clever about his pathetic willy.
I have had people yell out of car windows, make comments while walking next to me (‘do you like wearing g-strings?’ – I held eye contact and didn’t say a word until he freaked out and crossed the road) and all the rest of it happen to me, but I’ve never seen someone actually whip it out and give it a tug. Truly, what the hell?
Submitted by Sarah
This happened to me on Monday, roughly 9AM on the 7 train towards Main St. I had my eyes closed and when I opened them, he was sitting directly across from me, masturbating with his entire hand in his pants. Great. So I started to take a picture of him. He noticed and he started to move away. When I took the picture, he had moved two seats over. Then he got up and started walking away when he saw I was trying to take more pictures.
Anyway, I got off the train and I filed a police report. I know these incidents aren’t reported as often as they should be, so I am glad I did.
Submitted by Nancy
Last night at 1:00am I was coming home on the F from a party in the LES and a nasty guy sat across from me and started touching himself! I took out the app and snapped a picture of him. It’s blurry because it’s of him getting up to run away. He went to the other end of the subway car. I kept glaring at him and he eventually walked through to another car.
I have had people make comments at me on the street, or follow me for a block, but I haven’t seen someone masturbate while looking at me on a public subway car! SO NASTY. and the look on his face while he was doing it uh! I am so grossed out.
The only good thing was that he fucking ran away when he realized I was taking a picture. the perv!
Submitted by Kina
It happened a few years ago while I was in college. I was working as a waitress at a busy restaurant/bar in town and would usually get home around 1:30 am. One night I came home at the usual time, took a shower and went to bed. The next morning I find a business card stuck to my door from a local police officer asking me to contact him ASAP. I called the precinct, and he tells me that a man was arrested the night before for masturbating outside of my window. Apparently, some people at a party in the next building saw him from their balcony and called the police. I was listening to my iPod when I went to bed, so I never heard the cops knock on my door.
Incidentally, I always have my curtains closed, but apparently there was an opening at the bottom where they overlapped (about the size of a quarter, according to the cops who were at the scene), so he could see into my bedroom through this limited space. As the officer is telling me this, I realize that this man saw me completely naked after my shower the night before and watched me rub lotion all over myself, too, so apparently he got quite a show.
The officer tells me the guy’s name and asks if I know him. He says that the day before this “peeping” incident the man had been released from prison where he had been serving time for a sex crime. I don’t recognize the man’s name or description, but now I am panicking. This perv knows where I live, where I work (due to my waitress uniform), what kind of car I drive, and he can probably guess that at the end of the night I come home with an apron full of cash…plus he’s a convicted sex offender. I ask the officer if I can see the guy’s mug shot, to see if I recognize him from the restaurant, and so I will know who he is if I see him anywhere near me, and he says no, that he’s not allowed to show me a photo because it would be a violation of the guy’s rights! So this guy can look at my fully naked body without my knowledge or consent, but I can’t look at his face after he’s been arrested for peeping and wanking outside of my window. So glad that his rights weren’t violated!
I seriously feared for my safety after that. I felt so exposed, and not just because he had seen me naked, but because I felt that I was denied the option to protect myself. This guy was a convicted criminal with a history of sexually assaulting women! I hated not knowing if he was out there following me or watching me again– maybe I had even unknowingly waited on him? I never spent another night at that apartment and moved three weeks later. I also never heard back from the police about the case. When I called to follow up, I was told that the charges had been dropped due to a lack of “evidence”, meaning that he had not left a DNA sample at the scene. He had been interrupted by the police approaching and so he never finished, and apparently the statements from my neighbors weren’t proof enough of his crime. I hope with all my heart that I was the last woman he violated, but somehow I doubt it.
Submitted by Anne
Thanks for all the work you are doing in the city. I sent you a story a while back and wanted to relay another disgusting event to you.
I live in Queens and I was going home a little late getting on the 7 at Grand Central and this guy in a suit was like walking really close down the stairs behind me. So I stopped right at the bottom of the stairs where the train pulls up and he walked to my left like 20 feet away and I could tell the perv was staring at me. It took a long time for the train to get there and he was staring at me the whole time. So the train pulls up and all the sudden he is like RIGHT on my ass like pushing me in. I got in and there was a corner seat by the connecting door open so I sat there thinking he couldn’t rub up on me there. So he comes and stands right in front of me and is looking right down my top.
He was like 35, 6 feet, really good looking, wavy black hair with a wedding ring on. If you guys see him watch out. So I see that his hand is moving in his right pocket and he starts flicking his tongue at me. I was fuckin repulsed and like no one could even see him cause he had me in the corner. I am like 5’1″ and I was scared so I didn’t do anything but pretend he wasn’t there.
I could see his hard on and him rubbing it in his pants. He was like mumbling stuff too. I know one time he said o so u like that huh? It was so obvious. He was also like tapping my shoe with his foot like HEY look up at me jerking off and staring at you. My stop was 2 stops away but when the next stop came up I got up and got off. He purposely blocked me and groped my boob on the way out. I was scared and pissed too. This was on Monday and I havent seen him since. I cant wait to get the phone app you are putting out. I tried to get a pic but the train pulled away as I was trying to get his picture. You can share this story because I think it might help anyone else on that line at night.
Thanks for all your help.
Submitted by Krista
Dear HollaBack and all you women who like to chill in Central Park this summer,
I want to warn you about a wanker I encountered this past weekend:
On Saturday afternoon, I went back to a really lovely spot on the shore of the lake just a few paths in from the West 77th Street entrance — plenty of rocks to climb and sit upon to read or watch the water. There’s an area at water-level where I sat down to read — people were nearby on other rocks and plenty of rowboats were out on the lake, but people kept coming and going in my immediate vicinity. After awhile, this dude sat down a couple rocks away from me and took out an electronic device — this didn’t seem weird to me, since I’d noticed plenty of people come and go with cameras, take some photos of the lake, and leave, but I couldn’t figure out if this device was a camera or not. The dude set it in his lap and stayed there for a while, and then moved to a rock right next to me slightly higher up and straddled it, with the device still in his lap. I gave him a dirty look and shifted a little farther away from him when one of his legs was only a few inches away from my head, but otherwise stayed where I was — why should I have to be the one to move? I was there first, and I was absorbed in my book, so I ignored him, figuring he was just trying to find the most comfortable place to get settled, as I had done when I’d first arrived.
After a few more minutes, he moved again, this time to a rock a few feet away, kitty-corner to mine. I thought it was weird that he sat down facing me instead of facing the lake, but again I didn’t say anything, because he wasn’t actively bothering me and I just wanted to keep reading my book. Still, I was trying to figure out what his device was, because I’m paranoid about strangers taking photos of me without my knowledge, so I wanted to be sure it didn’t have a camera — but every time I looked up, I accidentally caught his eyes through his sunglasses, and he just stared creepily back at me. Of course, that part was not a new experience — dudes staring creepily — but I was physically comfortable where I was, relaxing into my first days of summer . . . so despite the slightly uneasy feeling I got, I just chalked it up to him being an awkward dude, your usual guy on the street/subway/wherever who stares but at least doesn’t say or do anything about it.
The next time I glanced up, though, I saw that HE HAD HIS DICK OUT. His pants were all the way open, and he was hard and jerking off fast. What. The. Fuck! It was so unexpected and repulsive, all I could do was make a horrified/disgusted face, grab my things, and get the hell away from there as quickly as possible. I was extremely shaken up, so freaked out that I couldn’t even scream at him or tell anyone else nearby what was happening. I just left the park as quickly as possible, called a couple of friends to calm me down, and didn’t stop walking until I’d walked dozens of blocks back to my apartment. How long had he been doing that and I hadn’t even noticed? What kind of person thinks that is remotely okay to do? I felt disgustingly violated, and still wish I could get the nauseating image of his face and his dick out of my head. Part of me started blaming myself for not moving the hell away from there from the moment I noticed that he was sitting on rocks closer to me than any polite person would, and then another part of me has been trying to shut that voice up ever since: There is no excuse for what that dude did. I had every right to be where I was, quietly reading in my own personal space, and he had no right whatsoever to take my presence as a woman as invitation to pull his dick out and wank in front of me.
I just hope that letting other women know about him will prevent this dude from violating anyone else. Assuming that he frequents the park to do this (which of course I have no way of knowing), I hope that somebody will catch him at it and have the power to do something about it. He was a tall, white, brunette, thirtysomething dude in shorts, wearing sunglasses and carrying an Insignia DVD Player (which I finally figured out did not have a camera), if that helps at all. If a dude sits near you when obviously there are other places to sit, I hope you have the voice I didn’t to tell him to move the fuck away. I assumed the best in this dude — that he was just an awkward guy trying to get comfortable on a nice day in the park — when really there are way more creeps who actually think it’s okay to pull their dicks out and do this in public, in front of or even on women. I know there are decent men in this world, but (from my own experiences and from reading other infuriating HollaBack posts here) this city keeps trying to prove me wrong.
Thank you so much for this forum to share my experience, even if you don’t end up posting it on the site, although I really hope you will. (I know it’s kind of long, but I couldn’t figure out how to write about it all more succinctly!)
Submitted by Sarah
I didn’t snap a photo of this guy, because I didn’t know/couldn’t believe what was happening until much later:
Two friends and I took the downtown 6 train from 86th street to 14th street, about 6:45 on Saturday evening. The train was PACKED. I was pressed up against some dude, my back to his front. I felt something around my butt, but couldn’t tell what is was–I suspected a penis, but wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I made a face at my friends, who told me to elbow him, but I couldn’t really tell what was happening. I could feel his heart beating against my back, but again, it was crowded, sweaty, etc. Eventually I was able to move. Fine. When the train crowds eased up a bit I realized I had something on my backside, and on my legs. We got out at 14th street, went to a restaurant, and I checked the dress in the bathroom–the man definitely came on me.
I called the police the next day, and they came by my apartment to take a report, but it was mortifying–they kept questioning everythinng I said, and one officer “repeated back” to me what I had allegedly told him, not letting me correct his mistakes, and told me “I have a great memory so I know exactly what you said.” Eventually his supervisor came by, and she was nicer, and more sympathetic, but the
message was clear: why would you let someone stand that close to you, and why wouldn’t you say anything (at the time, or right afterward). The whole experience was awful, but I don’t really know what I could have done differently–I didn’t want to turn around to face the guy, and figured that SEEING him would be worse than feeling him, but I had no idea that he must have had his penis out.
Completely disgusting, and the cops’ attitude made it worse.
Submitted by Sarah
First time to deal with a train masturbator. This guy was on the 6 Local from 42nd street heading downtown. He was jerking off through his jeans, but the gross part was that he wasn’t doing it to me, but to the little girl across from him! She must have been 6 yrs old. They got off at the same stop as me and he looked up at me as I was exiting. I politely and discretely gave him the finger. He looked away real fast. I only wish I was brave enough to have gotten a better picture.
Submitted by T.