Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Time a Stranger Grabbed Me Between My Legs

Thirteen years ago, I was riding the bus home from work. I sat near the front of the bus on a bench seat facing the aisle. I read a book.

Suddenly, a man grabbed my thigh. I flinched. He moved his hand into my crotch.

I slapped his hand. He kept touching me. I clenched my legs together. He forced his hand harder between them while I pushed his arm, helplessly.

He grinned.

I don't think I made a sound. I was so stunned, part of me didn't believe it was happening. I looked up and realized that several people, directly across from me, were watching in surprised silence while I tried to push a much-stronger man off of me.

Finally, an older woman came to my rescue. She was small but stern, and had the air of a schoolteacher. She sat down on the other side of me and scolded the man. He reached for me one last time, and she scolded him again. He laughed, then got up and exited the bus.

I only remember one thing about the rest of that humiliating ride home.

A man, directly across from me, grinned at me. I thought he felt embarrassed for not standing up for me. But then he said these words to me: "Come on, honey. Smile."

He told me I should smile.


I felt helpless and scared when that happened. But most of all, I was mad. No one should have to worry about protecting their private parts while they sit on a bus. I knew that man's behavior wasn't normal.

That should never be normal

And the thing is, I really thought my fellow women agreed with me on that.


Last week, we watched a presidential candidate talk about grabbing women between their legs. He called it "locker room talk," even though he wasn't in a locker room. He dismissed it.

And his supporters, blinded by devotion, or more likely, hatred, dismissed it too.

They compared his behavior to movies, books, and rap songs -- all forms of entertainment. But running the country isn't entertainment. Not even if you put a reality TV star on the job.

I am ashamed of all of these people.


When a man talks dirty about a woman's body, that's vulgar. When he talks about grabbing her private parts without consent, that is violent.

Next month, we get to make a choice. We get to decide what we tolerate. We get to choose what is normal.

What you condone, you accept as normal.

If you tell me that sexual assault is normal -- that it's just part of being a man, then I am deeply afraid.

I am afraid to work for you.

I am afraid to ride the bus with you. 

I am afraid of your sons.

I am afraid to live in the country you made.

And I am ashamed for you.

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