Subway sexual harassment: Help Metro find this pervert
Yesterday, a man exposed himself to me in the subway.
I ride the train every day, for several hours a day.
Nothing like this has ever happened.
It was around 2:30 p.m. and I was tired. It was drizzling outside and I had several assignments to accomplish in the next hour.
I was on the J train platform at Canal Street, looking for a seat. A man peered out from behind the staircase, looking for what I assumed to be an oncoming train.
I kept walking and as I was about to pass him, he screamed “I want to lick—" something too graphic to print, and suggested I take a picture of what he was all too clearly showing me. His pants were unzipped and he was masturbating a foot away from me.
I didn’t realize I was alone on the platform. I didn’t realize what he had done. I had nowhere to go— there were no people, no trains, and I was cornered at the end of the platform. He was still there, waiting.
I told myself he was crazy, there was nothing I did to deserve this — I checked my clothing, was I wearing something scandalous? I wasn’t even listening to music — where are the cops? Where are the station agents? Where are the people?
I didn’t want to be a victim. I was afraid if I approached him, screamed back, he would attack me again — push me off the platform, smash my camera, shoot me. I couldn’t even talk.
I knew I had to do something. So many people do nothing.
I took out my camera and readied myself — if he approached, I was going to defend myself the only way I knew how. I would take a photo of him. In the absence of all else, my camera would protect me.
I moved to the side of the platform to check if he was still there. He was. I looked at him, looking at me and I took his photo. He had been waiting for me.
There was a woman standing next to him, waiting for the train. She had no idea.
I should have shouted — “That man just flashed me!” “That man just masturbated in front of me!” “That man is a criminal!” And I couldn’t. It just sounded so ridiculous in my head. What could they do? The dozens of people around him? Would he run? Would he hurt someone?
He went down the NQR staircase and I jumped on the J. I got off at the next stop and frantically searched for a cop, an MTA agent, one of those emergency buttons — nothing. Okay, I thought, I guess this is it. There is nothing I can do. He won.
I could call 911, I thought. How long would that take? When would they arrive? He’s gone. He’s on a million different trains. He’s doing it again.
No — I have to tell the police. If I don’t stop him, who will?
I saw an empty police car next to a restaurant and went inside. I began to speak, but it came out all weird.
I tapped him on the shoulder.
I couldn’t speak.
“A man just flashed me in the subway.”
“A man just exposed himself to me in the subway.”
“Canal Street, just now.”
“Come outside. Slow down.”
“I have a photo. I took a photo. This is him.”
To their credit, the two officers didn’t stay for their takeaway. I got in the back of their car and we drove to Canal Street. Together, we did a canvass of the J platform, the NQR platform. He was everywhere — every man was wearing khakis, his jacket, his hat, his face. All men, it seemed, were that one man.
He wasn’t there, I knew he was gone, he was smart, he knew what he was doing. I kept telling them— “I have his photo. This is the man. Can I give you his photo?”
They drove me to the Fifth Precinct and dropped me in the care of another cop.
"I was really hoping we were gonna catch the guy," one of the officers said before he drove off.
The other police officer sat me down in the station and took my ID.
I told him the story.
Two more officers approached.
He told them the story.
I showed him the photograph.
I showed them the photograph.
It had been an hour and a half since the incident and I was still a victim.
“How tall was he?"
“What color hair did he have?”
“What kind of hat was he wearing?"
“How much did he weigh?”
Checkbox, checkbox, checkbox, 4 p.m.
After we finished the pages of paperwork, the cop took me up to the detectives unit. He told me that they had a book of repeat offenders, and I would be able to look through it to see if mine was one of theirs. But I had a photo of him! Why wouldn’t anyone take the photo? Why did I even bother telling the police?
I sat on a bench on the second floor of the precinct while the officer spoke with detectives. He came out and informed me, “They’ll call you if they have any questions. They’re swamped.”
Seriously? Seriously? A man exposes himself on the subway, a woman photographs him and the police — give her a complaint number? How does this system work? What was I supposed to do? What are women supposed to do? What did I do wrong?
I am still waiting for the police to contact me with their questions, if they have any, any at all.