I Was On The Metro When...
I WAS ON THE METRO WHEN...
project highlights women and men who have come forward with their story of harassment and sexual assault on public transportation within Washington, D.C. & beyond. Metro cars, buses, taxis, and Ubers are spaces where these incidents have occurred time and time again. My goal of this project is to help stop this from occurring. No woman or man should feel unsafe when going to their next destination. As a New Media Photojournalism Masters student at George Washington University & Corcoran School of Art and Design, it's extremely important to me for these stories to be heard. Fill out the form if you are interested in submitting your story. The more voices that come together, the bigger impact we can have on the public transportation systems and society. Click here to view "I Was On The Metro When" Instagram
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“I was taking the bus to work during the summer. A man, who appeared to be intoxicated, entered and sat down in the same area towards the back of the bus. The man starts trying to talk to a woman who was sitting across from me. She was obviously looking at her phone and didn’t want to be bothered. He started touching her. Grabbing her arm. Grabbing her chest. She told him to stop but he kept going for it. To be honest, I am a small person. I am 5 4’ and this guy was clearly bigger than me. Since it seemed he was on something I didn’t want to confront him directly. Other people around us were on their phones and reading books and didn’t seem to care about what was happening. I went to the front of the bus and told the female bus driver to stop because of what was happening to this woman. She pulled over right away, called the police on the intercom and asked the man to leave. At that point, some other passengers got involved to help remove him from the bus. Three or four people in the front of the bus started accosting me with homophobic slurs. They called me faggot, stating, “this is my morning commute!” “Why are you holding us up?” I was offended and disgusted, telling them that there was a man groping a woman on the bus. It was a very disheartening thing to witness--not only were people not willing to step up but they expressed more concern over being late for work than they did over this person being harassed.”
"It happened right after I moved here. It was on a Saturday morning and I was going to go hiking with my friend. I got on the metro and there were only two other people on the train. I was tired, wearing hiking pants, and an old t-shirt. A man got on the train and out of all the empty seats he came and sat right next to me. He started manspreading, pushing his legs apart and pressing them against my thigh. I felt really uncomfortable and was trying to move as close to the window as possible. I put my bag in between us to create a little barrier. He kept pushing his leg on to me and his hand started sliding down on to my thigh. I was terrified. Looking back, I wonder why I didn't say anything then. I think I was just shocked that this was happening. I tried to squish myself as far into the wall as possible. I told him, "Would you mind giving me some space I am feeling a little squished?". He started yelling at me. That's when I realized he was drunk. I wanted to defend myself, but I didn't want to get hurt. I told him I just wanted to get out and he could have all of the seat if he just let me out. He didn't move. He just kept shouting at me. There was another woman on the train and she came up to me and asked if I was ok. She asked me if I knew this guy. I told her no and that I was terrified. She got involved and we moved him out of the seat together. There was another guy on the train who helped too. At the next stop, I bolted off the train…I am so thankful for those bystanders who helped me. I didn't know what I could do in that moment. Now I only sit at the ends of the seats. This is one of those little things that we shouldn't have to think about when we get on the metro."
"I was coming back from my internship. This man got on the car and he was at the other end of the car. He caught my eye. He started periodically moving closer to me. He changed seats around 2 or 3 times. Then he sat right next to me. It was just us on the car, there might have been a few people in the back. He whips out his phone and starts showing me pictures of his penis. He used his legs to corner me in. He held his phone so close to my face and started scrolling through the images. He stated, "Why don't you like this?" "Do you want me right now?". Clearly at that time I was terrified. I couldn't move. I told him I had a boyfriend. I'm not really sure why, since it was a lie, and it only made him ask me more viciously. At the next stop I ran off the train and started crying at the platform."
ANONYMOUS PART 2
"I don't wear glasses on the metro. I don't make eye contact. I don't want to give anyone an invitation to talk to me. Without my glasses, I cannot see details. I don't want to know what other people are doing around me. In the morning I never wear them. After work I will take them off before I start commuting back home."
HUMAN RESOURCES PROFESSIONAL PART 1
"I always fall asleep on the metro in a middle seat. That is the best thing in the world to fall asleep in a moving vehicle. One morning, I felt something in my lap. I didn't think I had anything in my lap so I forced myself to wake up. I looked down and there was a hand touching my crotch. I stood up, pushed the old man out of his seat and yelled at him to get off of me. No one asked if I was ok. Nobody cared. Nobody even looked up."
HUMAN RESOURCES PROFESSIONAL PART 2
"Unfortunately, I did not take his picture or report him to Metro. Now, I will only sit if I can find an aisle seat next to a woman. But the most frustrating thing about these incidents is people's reactions when I tell them this story. They say, "Well, you shouldn't have fallen asleep!" Unacceptable. The real question is, "Why can't a man keep his hands to himself?" If you fall asleep or wear a certain thing that doesn't give anyone the right touch you. A woman should be able to do and wear whatever she wants and not feel afraid."
“It wasn’t that long ago. There were only a few people on the train with me. I could feel that someone was looking at me. I looked over and saw a man looking directly at me. He walked over and sat close to me. It was a little weird because there were so many other places to sit. His lower body was blocked by a seat in front of him. I noticed that his hand was vigorously moving. I could feel in my peripheral vision that he was staring at me while he was masturbating. My first feeling was disgust. I got up and stood by the door. When I got off the train I had an even weirder feeling. Is this the world that we live in? We just have to deal with this? Then I was disappointed in myself for not saying anything. What’s really upsetting is that if we don’t come together and don’t say anything about this, it’s going to become normalized. It’s going to be a normal thing that every woman has to go through every single day. Someday if I have a daughter, what am I going to tell her? That this is just a part of life for women? I keep thinking this is just the world that we live in, but it doesn’t have to be. We shouldn’t have to put up with this every time we use public transportation.”
Undergraduate Student at George Washington University
"I used to live in India so street harassment is not new to me at all. I have been harassed on the DC metro multiple times but this one sticks to me the most...I was on the metro wearing shorts it was pretty warm outside. It must have been March or April. I was sitting on the first seat closest to the door. This whole group of older men got on the train and they started leering at me. There were more than 5 and less than 10. I couldn't count all of them because there were so many of them. They all started shouting at me. Some of them had kids with them, little boys. They were commenting to the little boys about the way that my legs looked. The boys looked as if they were less than 10. I was extremely uncomfortable. I got up and they all got so much louder because they saw the back of my shorts. I remember one of the comments in particular, "She got an ass on her!" They all start going on about my butt and asked where I was going. I was terrified they were going to follow me because there were so many of them. There were too many of them for me to keep track of. I exited the train and sprinted towards the exit…This was probably the most terrified I have ever been. The other top four are the other times I have been harassed."
“It was the first week of my graduate Ph.D. program. I was 29 years old and I was on the red line going from Cleveland Park to the Brookland Station. I was in a very crowded car and I was holding on to a pole. Suddenly, I felt a hand grab my crotch. I thought, ‘Wait a minute. This is not an accident.’ I looked to see who it was and the man directly facing me was staring at me. He was young, wearing business clothes, going to work and he was looking at me for my reaction. I did not know what to do. I glared at him. Looking back, I wish I had screamed and possibly made him feel as humiliated as he made me feel…Now this is my chance to tell the world what happened.”
“I was coming home from work around 8:30 PM. I had my earbuds in and was listening to a podcast. I noticed this guy starting to get into my personal bubble on the Metro platform. I moved away and didn’t make any eye contact. But then he kept getting closer and closer, to the point I started looking around seeing if anyone else was noticing this. I eventually tried to make eye contact with him to show him that I realized what he was doing. He wouldn’t look at me. Eventually the train came and we got into the same car, then he started to stare at me. I decided to get off and change cars. We were in the older cars where they have windows in between the cars. I was watching him to make sure he wasn’t going to get off at my station. When the train stopped at my station, he got off along with me. I could see him catch sight of me and maintained eye contact at that point. At that point I just sat down on a bench on the platform and waited him out. I didn’t want him to follow me home......It’s not a sex thing. It’s a power thing. It doesn’t matter what you are wearing. It is just that another person wants to have power over you. By showing that he is willing to stare at you, follow you, masturbate in front of you, rape you, whatever. It is him having power over you. That’s what they want.”
“I was on my way to work. It was a summer morning and the train was overcrowded on the orange line. I was surrounded by a bunch of men in suits. You could not move. No one could move anywhere. When the train operator slowed down the car everyone started to shift over. I could feel a hand on my leg as the train was jerking to stop. The hand would move closer when it shifted. At first I thought this person was just shoved up against me. But the last two times that they did it his hand went into my crotch in between my legs…This is stuff that women deal with for their entire lives.”
“I was walking through the main area of Union Station. I made slightly awkward eye contact with this guy who was wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt but he did not look threatening so I just looked away and just kept walking. He still was walking straight at me but I did not think anything of it at that moment because there a pillar blocking his path. I thought he was just trying to get where he needed to be like everyone else. He brushed up against me, put his hand on my leg, lifted up my dress and felt my thigh. He leaned in and whispered ‘sexy’ in my ear. I few paces later I realized what happened turned around to look at him. I just kept walking but 10 feet away were security guards. I went and told them what happened. ‘Where is he?’ the security guards stated. I told them the direction he went and what he was wearing. They said they would be on the lookout and asked if I would stick around. I went to the nearby Chipotle thinking they would come get me once they got more information. I didn't feel like eating so I sat down for 30 minutes. I realized they were not going to come and get me. I went back and they were just standing there giving people directions. I confronted them and they stated, ‘Oh yeah we let everyone know but we think he left so don't worry about it’. They didn’t write any information down about what happened to me or seem to care at all.”
"What happened to me on public transportation isn’t something that should be happening to a 17-year-old high school girl. In fact, it isn’t something that should happening to any person at all.
Clad in my uniform, I rushed out of my last period class for the walk to my bus stop by the Medical Center metro station – the 46 Ride On. I had an English paper due the next day that I hadn’t started on and wanted to get back home as soon as possible to get started on it. I knew I had a better chance of catching an emptier bus before peak rush hour, and I was right. The 5-minute wait gave me a chance to get my headphones in so I could ride the bus, uninterrupted. There were no more than 5-10 people on the bus with me, so I was able to get my usual seat – right by the back exit.
If I’m by myself, I typically tend to mind my own business while I’m taking any sort of public transportation, and this time was no different. With my headphones in, I was able to hear no more than the sounds of the stops. However, this time, I heard a booming thump from the man who decided to sit next to me – a moustachioed man with a medium-to-large build, presumably coming from work with a briefcase in hand.
I wondered why he was sitting next to me in a bus full of empty seats where he had his pick of the lot. As I continued to listen to my music and avoid eye contact with the man next to me, I started to feel a sweaty, warm hand on my thigh. My mind went blank and I didn’t know what to do in that moment. I was so focused on avoiding eye contact with him, that he found himself the opportunity to do what he wanted to my body when I wasn’t looking. I continued looking straight ahead and avoided any eye contact with him possible.
About 10 seconds later, the bus came to a halting stop at the request of another passenger wanting to get off. Deciding to take this opportunity, I quickly jumped up out of my seat to walk out – but not before he was able to pull on my skirt. I turned around, looking him straight in the eye with the snarkiest expression of contempt I could muster up, and walked out of the bus.
This is the first time I’ve told this story to anyone. In the moments after the incident, I kept on thinking to myself: “Was this harassment?” You can’t help but question yourself when an act that is meant to be consensual and private is done in such a public setting. I know now, after hearing so many stories of similar occurrences, that this was harassment. In that moment, should I have said something? I really didn’t know what I could have done or what would have happened if I did.
In this movement of #metoo, I am using this project as a platform to speak my mind and share my story in hopes that others might come forward too. Never forget that there is strength in solidarity."
“My friend Mia and I signed up for these kickboxing classes. It was 3 for $9 which is so cheap for kickboxing and its all the way in East Falls Church. We went together. We got on the metro at GW Foggy bottom and rode it all the way to East Falls Church. We were walking because the location was 5 minutes away. I noticed this man in this glass hallway we were walking in. You can see reflection through the glass. And I started to notice this man approaching us and my friend Mia is short. I am one of the tallest of my friends so I am known as a protecter. I put her in front of me as we were walking. I just kept looking and pulled my purse in tighter. He was walking behind us for about 2 minutes. He got about a foot away from me. I turned to my left and I could see that he had a phone. And I turned around saw that he was recording my ass. I said, ‘Are you recording my butt?’ He was so in shock that I actually said something to him. He froze. My friend Mia said ‘What is he doing?’. I responded, “He is recording my butt. He has been recording us walking’. I was so in shock. I was so infuriated because I really didn’t know what to do.”
"Women are powerful. I mean that literally. Our bodies are built for resilience and struggle. Our minds and spirits are built to withstand trauma and challenge and, somehow, allow us to adapt. But one day, I sat on the train coming home from work. I sat reading the paper, shockingly an article about the #metoo movement. I looked to my right and a man was staring at his lowered phone. And after a quick moment, I realized that through his phone, he was looking up my skirt. He was actively working to get an angle up the slit of my gray pencil skirt and around my crossed knees. I was embarrassed. I was mortified. When I got up to leave, he simply looked at me and grinned. He said: “I hope your day ends as good as mine just did.”
I felt dirty. I felt like I shouldn’t wear that skirt anymore. And then that made me angry. Why should the actions of a man, actions that made me feel like an object, actions that made me feel a lack of power, force me to feel less valuable as a woman? I worked to remember my voice. I actively worked to harness my agency. And then I remembered how many women do not have those options and it humbled my heart.
Right now, amongst the Weinstein’s in the world who do not get the public shame and continue to assert a toxic masculinity that push women to feel shame in their space and body, we need to stand together. Instead of us women comparing harassment and experience in a negative way, let’s support one another. Because women, as a collective and with our shared but unique experiences, have unbelievable power. And let’s hold our male counterparts to this standard. To the men who will read this and be horrified because you have a daughter, sister or wife, remember that this MATTERS. And not just because of the women who touch your lives. But because women are people too. We all deserve to feel powerful and full of agency and voice in this world that we share.
“I was with a friend and it was probably around midnight. We were going from New Carrolton to Capital South. This guy got on the train and sat across from us and he decided that because I had big breasts that it clearly meant that I wanted to have sex with him. That I wanted to perform oral sex on him. And he got up and he was standing in front of us the entire time. He was talking to me and was saying really descriptive rude terms. I froze. I couldn't really talk to him. I couldn't answer anything. And the entire time he was touching himself. He was video tapping the entire incident. Eventually, this guy who was on the same train as us who was sitting a few seats down got up and told him to back off. He started freaking out and calling this guy Captain America. Saying that he could do whatever he wanted that we didn't say that we didn't want to talk to him. Eventually we got to our stop. We got off of the train. Initially we thought he was following us off the train but he was getting off to go into another car to be away from Captain America…I sent Metro this really detailed account to what happened. The fact that the guy was drawing his nails with a sharpie. What kind of alcohol he smelled like. I sent it in. I got an email back I think the next day that said, `Thank you for your extremely detailed account of what happened. Our suggestion would be that you do not ride the metro after 8 pm, and try to wear sensible clothing on the metro.” -Rowan
Do you have any advice for women on what to do in a scary situation on the metro?
“I would just tell a person pray. That’s what I do. Hopefully they will have a peaceful ride to their destination and a peaceful ride back. Please God let me get to my destination in one piece. Get all these men and boys to leave me alone I just want to get where I’m going”.
“It was when the weather started to freak out again. I was just minding my business all bundled up. Clearly going to work at the metro. I had my khakis on. As I was coming up the escalator in front of me and I realized that a man was staring at me. I just ignored it because I thought he was going to stop. But when I got on the metro platform and I stood there waiting for the train. He walked up to me and started telling me how beautiful I am and how he really wants my number and wants to take me out. I told him politely that I don’t feel comfortable giving my number out to strangers. He would not walk away until I promised that the next time he sees me again that I have to give him my number because we wouldn’t be strangers anymore. He was harassing me for about 5 minutes until the metro got there. There were plenty of people around especially since it was rush hour going to work but no one said anything. I didn’t feel right for the rest of the day. Since then I get to the metro and I am scared he is going to be there again. Some days I try to ignore it because I haven’t seen him since. But it’s tough.”
“I was riding the metro one day. I was coming up on L’Enfant plaza getting ready to get off. I was sitting at the end of the row and I noticed a girl who was sitting in the handicapped seats. She was sitting next to man who was wearing baggy pants and a black shirt. I just happened to look up at the right time. He took his hands and started to rub her thigh. She had this actual look of fear and shock and she couldn't move. I knew she couldn't move because she didn’t. She was just frozen. So I thought. Oh God. What do I do? Do I call him out. I don't want him to react violently and start a large scene. So what I did was I went, “Hey oh my god! I haven't seen you in so long! How are you? Come sit right next to me!” She looked at me, she jumped up from the seat and sat right next to me. And she said “Its been forever. He was glowering in the seat close to us. I honestly don't think he realized what I did. I am pretty sure he thought I knew her. Eventually we got off the train together.”