HOLLA ON THE GO: I noticed a man of about age 35-45 walking behind…
I noticed a man of about age 35-45 walking behind a group of 5 young college women in the subway station at Powell Street, San Francisco. The women got off the escalator, and moved to the farthest point on the platform. This guy moved through the crowd to get closer to them, but then turned around and walked back to the escalator. Then I saw him walking up towards the women again, this time, he came in closer to them. He was mumbling, staring at them. He looked unkempt. He watched the women with laser beam eyes. Then he started to swear about “bitches and cunts, teases.”
He came closer to the group, within 3 feet, acted as if he wanted to speak to them, but then stopped to just stare. The women looked nervous, and they tried to get away from him by moving to another part of the platform.
I walked up to the women and I asked if this guy was bothering them; it appeared to me that he was following them, and I perceived him as a threat. They said they didn’t know him, he just started following them into the subway from the mall upstairs, staring, coming close, walking away, mumbling epithets.
From a short distance, I took a photo of him, pretending to be engaged with my phone. Since he was staring at these women, I don’t think he noticed me.
They were scared. I was, too.
I told them I have a plan to board the train with them, and get right up to the conductor so we could ask them for assistance. They should go to the first car, up front and I will follow, but slowly, so I can watch this guy. I let them know I took a photo of him.
Next train came, and the girls made a b-line to the first car, and stood by the conductor. I went in too, but did so slowly, casually, to see if this guy was going to board the train as well, and if he was going to try to get on the first car. He did. So I ran to the front of the first car to stand by the group. I softly spoke to the conductor…and luckily…by chance, there were two conductors (one was hitching a ride). I explained the situation and one conductor stepped out into the train car to talk with us. I made the conductor face us, not the guy in the car, and showed him the photo of the guy. The conductor took a photo of my photo in my phone. He said something into his walky-talkie. Then, he said he had a plan.
He suggested that all of us get out at the next stop…and do it right before the train closes the doors, so the guy can’t jump up and follow us. On his cue, we left the train and watched the guy and the train leave from the platform.
The conductor then assured us that he explained to Muni security what happened, and shared the photo to security, so they could be on the lookout for this white seemingly unstable middle aged guy of about 5’6.”
The girls were really grateful. They ended up taking the next train back the University. I was relieved to know he wasn’t stalking them anymore, but worried he was still on the loose and heading towards SFSU. Muni security said they’d be on the lookout. The girls said they contacted SFSU security to have someone meet them at the train when they get off.
What I want people to know is: keep your eyes open on a crowd. Watch for body language: moving away from someone, moving again, looking away from the threatening person. In this case, this guy was also super easy to spot.
Don’t be afraid to ask the person you think is being harassed or followed if they are ok and want help. Keep your cool, communicate to the (victim) that you too are uncomfortable and have a plan. I put myself between the guy and these women. Reach out to staff – as they should help. I was prepared to ditch my plans and ride all the way to SFSU with these women if need be. The girls didn’t want to make a scene…they were afraid to say anything. However, they were very happy I stepped in.