A Stranger Groped Me In Public Today And I’m The One Who Apologized
He grabbed my breast full in his open hand and squeezed so hard he left me throbbing in pain.
I live in New York City. It’s a place known for not sleeping, but it should also be known for having sidewalks that get so crowded on a daily basis they rival places like Tokyo.
I don’t know, maybe that’s wrong, but it certainly feels that way to me, especially when all five feet two inches of myself is trying to get anywhere.
If you aren’t cool with people invading your personal space, then you probably shouldn’t live here. If you have a job that requires you to take the subway, you have to accept the fact that your body is going to be pressed up against someone else’s body at some point.
And on the street, people are going to be careless and walk into you sometimes. It happens. You can get annoyed that it occurs because people are being oblivious, but you can’t get annoyed that it occurs at all, because that’s just the nature of city life, and everyone who lives here knows it
Just because I’ve reconciled myself to that fact, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the rare moments when the usually crowded city empties out and I can walk a full block without feeling like I’m playing a game of Frogger, but with me as the frog.
It’s nearly Christmas, and that means that the city is a little bit less crowded during business hours in the non-touristy areas where New Yorkers actually live and work, so this morning my train was empty enough that I got a seat. It was a nice way to start my day.
Less nice was what happened at lunch time.
I joined a few friends — three men friends, which is relevant — to walk one-block to a local buffet. The walk was pleasant, if totally uneventful. We grabbed our food and left, remarking on how empty the buffet and then the street itself both were. Even though there weren’t many people out, we didn’t walk four abreast, of course. That’s what a**holes do. We walked two-by-two, like a pack of Noah’s precious animals, only minus one chick and up one guy.
We were nearly about to separate and peel off in our respective directions when a man walking down the street barreled into me — hard.
He was coming the opposite way, and usually when something like that has happened to me it’s been because someone was running, the street was crowded, they made a mistake, or they were just rude. This was none of those things. He wasn’t running, and he had a wide, empty street to maneuver along.
This time, this man went intentionally out of his way and walked into me as hard as he could, and he did it because it as a way to cover up the what it was he really wanted to do — squeeze my left breast as hard as he could without even breaking his stride.
“Sorry!” I automatically said, as the guy kept right on walking.
I said sorry.
To the unknown man who had just sexually assaulted me by grabbing my breast full in his open hand and squeezing it so hard that he left it throbbing in pain.
He was already several feet way before either I or my friends could respond.
“Whoa, he just plowed into you for no reason,” one said.
I explained that it hadn’t been for no reason. It had been so he could grope me easily and get away with it.
None of us did anything, none of us said anything. My friend Dan put his arm around my shoulder, and we all kept walking.
I felt guilty and stupid for no reason other than totally misplaced shame. I had nothing to be ashamed of, of course. All I’d done was be a person with breasts walking down the street.
I work pretty hard every day to point out when people are doing something that isn’t acceptable. On the Internet, I talk a big game about equality between men and women and how things like street harassment just aren’t acceptable, and how it’s every woman’s right to call it out when we see it.
But when it happened to me today, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t say anything other than, “Sorry.”
And while this doesn’t make sense, I feel embarrassed about that. In fact, I probably feel more ashamed of my own silence than that man will ever feel for violently and sexually assaulting a woman in public.
I can’t change the way I reacted, and I can’t go back and find this guy and call him out the way I wish I had, but I can take comfort in the fact that I do know this wasn’t my fault.
And if it happens to you, I know it wasn’t yours either.
Image via shutterstock.com.
Comment: Have you ever been on the receiving end of unwanted groping?
If you liked this story, read more like it on Yourtango.com:
I Was Fat-Shamed On The NYC Subway For Accidently Bumping Into A Man’s Backpack
How To Know If You’re A Victim Of Sexual Harassment At Work
This Is What Happens When You Go To HR With A Sexual Harassment Claim