The Story of My Sexual Assault on Muni in San Francisco

Something happened to me yesterday that has happened to millions of women in cities all over the world. This is my story of sexual assault on public transportation, a bus in downtown San Francisco:

I was sitting in a seat by the window across from the rear doors with headphones on, listening to music, being careful to hide my loaner phone in my purse after I had my iPhone stolen out of my hand last week. A man sat down beside me in the empty seat.

I did what I usually do and quickly, discreetly sized up my seatmate. He was a disheveled middle-aged man with blonde hair that was either dusty or graying. He smelled strongly of alcohol on his breath, body and clothes. He didn't smell like piss and weeks upon weeks of not showering, like other unfortunate people who sometimes take the bus, but he looked like he was swiftly headed in that direction. This man was clearly intoxicated and behaving strangely. He swayed in his seat and repeatedly made the sign of the cross, which is highly disconcerting, let me assure you. When women would board and stand next to where he sat he would try to engage them. They would quickly move away. I should have followed them.

He tried to engage me as well. My defense was to aggressively ignore him on the very crowded bus by staring out the window and keeping my headphones on. I had just three stops to go. When he tried to talk to me (words I couldn't hear due to the music) I shook my head no and held my hand up, flattened, to signal that I wished to be left alone.

Muni Bus

The bus continued to lurch down busy Market Street. I pulled the cord to signal that I wanted off when the bus was due to stop again at 5th and Market.

I stood a few seconds before the bus came to a halt, a clear indiction that I was getting out and off the bus. When the bus stopped the man to my right swiveled his legs around rather than stand, so I took a wide step to get around him and as I did he grabbed me between my legs.

Without thinking I turned and swung my heavy purse containing a server's book, a hardback journal and loose, sharp pens at his head, but barely connected. I think the purse grazed his face. I screamed FUCK YOU, also without thinking, and fled off the bus.

I stepped down onto the concrete platform, my head swimming in a raucous tide. A young man beside me asked what happened. "He grabbed me between the legs," I told him. 

The young man shook his head. "And that man said, 'What?,' like he didn't do nothing."

My legs moved forward in spite of myself. I was floating down the sidewalk on Market Street trying to comprehend what had just happened. I was trying hard not to vomit. I felt ill; I was physically revolted. I shuddered and tears collected in the corners of my eyes. 

My lip quivered as I crossed the busy mall to the elevator that would take me to the restaurant where I work. Everything was foggy. My feelings were foggy and my vision was foggy and my mind was foggy. I couldn't believe what had just happened, and I couldn't believe how awful it made me feel. 

As I hit the button in the elevator for the 4th floor I realized for the first time I'd been sexually assaulted. I'd considered whether or not this was a big deal, checked the facts against my feelings and decided that yeah, it kind of was.

I walked into the restaurant in a daze. I walked over to put my bag away when my friend Leo put up his hand to give me a high five. I blurted out, "I was just sexually assaulted on the bus."

I told Leo and Marc more specifically what happened and the embarrassment rose in my face and the revulsion in my gut. I sat down at Table 100, put my forehead on my forearm, burying my face, and cried really hard.

Poor Leo and Marc stood there mostly silent. "This fucking city," was certainly uttered, as were several I'm sorries. They were both very comforting in their presence, but they seemed at a loss for words. And who can blame them?

"Do you want a glass of wine?," Leo offered. I looked down at my hands and they were shaking.

"YES," was my emphatic reply.

He went and poured a hefty glass of gruner veltliner, my favorite, and handed it to me. "Here. Slam this."

And I did. It helped immensely. My nerves were completely frayed and I was a mascara-y mess and I had a new two-top at Table 49. I freshened my make-up in the bathroom and by the time I took the couple's drink order the wine was kicking in and my nervous system began to unclench slightly. 

I made iced tea for the lady at 49 and waited for the bartender to pour a Trumer when I felt the first bubbles of boiling anger begin to rise within me. I was moving through the stages of grief very quickly. Suddenly I was fucking pissed.

I wanted to punch someone--specifically the asshole who grabbed me between my legs. Just typing that sends puke rising into my throat. I can recall with precise accuracy the sensation of his hand between my legs and I'm not sure I'll ever forget it. It felt like wrongness and violation and horror and evil. 

Marc, the sous chef, sensed my anger. He stood watching me fume.

"Is it too soon to make a joke?," he asked, knife in hand.

"It's been 15 minutes," I said. "I think it's probably overdue."

He grinned. "I'm going to say I was sexually assaulted, too, because I could really use a glass of wine right now."

I laughed and laughed and was grateful for the levity. And the wine.

As my shift continued I thought more about what had happened. "I was just wearing my work uniform," I thought. "It wasn't even anything..." I stopped myself before I could think it all the way. I was about to consider what I'd been wearing in trying to process what had happened to me. 

After urging from others I decided to go to the police precinct and report the crime today. I was reminded that there are cameras on Muni buses and that there might be viable video of him touching me. Even if not, these crimes are grossly underreported and even one more record of this kind of assault might mean more police presence in the future.

So, after my short lunch shift this afternoon I took a cab to 6th and Bryant to the Southern station to file a report. I took a cab because the next bus was reportedly 47 minutes away and I felt unsafe walking. That happens when you've had your crotch grabbed on public transit and the police precinct is in a sketchy-ish part of town. 

I entered and told the security guard I was there to report a crime. He told me to walk to a counter where officers were protected behind thick plastic or glass. I had to use a phone to talk to the policeman on the other side.

"I'm here to report a crime. I was groped on the bus."

"What happened?"

"I was groped on the bus. He grabbed me between my legs as I was exiting."

"Where did he grab you? Sorry, but you have to be more specific."

"He grabbed my vulva." I tried to tamp down my embarrassment.

"Okay. What do you want to do? File a report?" His tone made his words sound more like, "Are you serious? You came all the way down here for this?"

"Yes," I told him. Yes, I wanted to file a report.

He asked for more information. I gave it to him. He told me to wait. Then he came out and spoke with me face to face.

"We have two options here. We have a Muni task force. We can give them this info and they can be on the lookout for this guy. Or you can file a full report, but it won't do anything."

He made sure to tell me this guy wouldn't be caught even if I filed a report. For a moment I hedged. For a split second I considered not filing a report. He nearly convinced me. Then I remembered what I came there to do.

"I realize this guy probably won't be caught, but this crime is underreported and I want to do my due diligence and make sure this one is. And if it means more police presence later, then even better." He did not agree with me; he said nothing. The amount of sympathy he managed could fit into a thimble.

I waited more. While waiting with no where to sit for many minutes. I considered the infirm or pregnant or elderly women who would be very physically uncomfortable waiting to file a similar report. With nothing to be said of the emotional discomfort.

Finally I was given a slip of paper with my case number on it. I was told that usually sexual battery requires "skin on skin contact," but that that was how my case would be labeled. He told me I could follow the case online.

I initiated a hand shake. He finally, finally mustered that he was sorry this happened. He told me to be careful. It sounded a lot like, "don't let this happen to you again."

A less confident woman would not have filed this crime report for sexual assault. I know this, because I nearly didn't.

I have a lot more processing of emotions to do before I write more about what happened to me and how the situation was treated by SFPD. Plus, there is more to be revealed with how this case will be handled. But I wanted to write about this now for my own therapeutic reasons, but also to shine a light on a crime that happens regularly and that just might be downplayed by the people in charge of our safety. 

If this happens to you I urge you to report it to the police. Do not let them convince you to walk away without filing a report. Being groped against your will on the subway or bus or anywhere is sexual battery, and you deserve to stand up and have your assault counted.

More soon.

The Little Girl in the Hot Pink Candy Heart Bra

As a server in a busy restaurant, I interact with all kinds of kids and their parents. And in doing so I experience a wide gamut of familial exchanges. I am privvy to everything from unbelievable exercices in parental patience to harsh reprimands for perceived slights, but it wasn't until Wednesday that I witnessed something that made me want to call Child Protective Services.

A family of four sat at my table--a father, a mother, big sister and little sister. I approached to greet them and was shocked at what I found.


The youngest daughter, 11 years old at most (and I'm being generous here), was wearing a pale pink lacy tank top with spaghetti straps. Underneath was a hot pink push-up bra with candy hearts printed on it. I know the details of her bra because the tank top was worn low, just below the upper edge of the bra cups, to intentionally showcase the lingerie beneath. [Like this.]

I was horrified. I suggested beer for Dad and steered Mom toward a particular pasta, of course, but mostly I stared at that poor little girl.

"Could she be 13, maybe?," I asked myself. But there was no mistaking--this was an 11 or 10 year old child wearing a hot pink bra meant to be seen peeking out from her pale pink lacy tank top.

When she broke open the 4-pack of Crayolas that we hand out with kids menus and began drawing big, fluffy clouds over a house with a big green tree in front, I spun around looking for someone else to confirm that, "Yes! This is wildly disconcerting!"

I wanted to grab her up and take her with me out of there, far, far away. Buy her a proper scoop neck t-shirt and a teddy bear. Assure her that she's beautiful and valuable, even without showing the world her underwear. Perhaps even suggest she wait to wear a bra until she has breasts.

Instead I just silently hoped she'd be okay.

Maybe You Had to Be There, but I'm Creeped Out Now by my Bed

Last night Ian and I went to bed at my apartment after a night of camping. We were both very tired despite naps, because even though his equipment is top notch, we still slept on the damn ground. Downhill. Which we discovered well into the night when I rolled onto his sleeping pad and smashed his face into the mesh. Then I pushed him in the back. (All while asleep, mind you.)

We went to a bed that was right side up, all things aligned, and promptly fell asleep. Sometime in the night I awoke to discover that the sheet was now somehow on top of the comforter. Not in part or on one side, but it was as if a giant had come in and flipped the sheet and comforter completely.

I woke Ian by telling him that the sheets were now on top.

"What?," he asked me.

I repeated that the sheets were now on top, and asked if he would help me flip them back.

And he did. I think.

I only remembered the strange sheet reversal incident just now, when preparing the bed for tonight's sleep. In recalling it, the situation seems even more bizarre. How did the sheet get entirely flipped? Did that even happen?

I wrote Ian: "Remember last night when I woke you up and said, "The sheets are on top," and we flipped the comforter? Or did I dream that?"

He replied almost immediately: "I remember the comment and sort of the flipping, yeah."

So, it did happen. I wasn't dreaming. But that means that somehow in the night the sheet and comforter reversed themselves fully while we slept. Is it possible through a few tosses and turns that our covers flipped themselves all the way over, lying completely flat, as if someone had made the bed that way intentionally.

Fucking creepy, I tell ya.

Regarding Polanski

I am sincerely wondering when saying no repeatedly to the person penetrating you against your will stopped being rape.

None of that other stuff matters. Age of consent. His wife's brutal murder. His movies. What the judge or prosecutors might have done. Whether the victim wants to pursue judicial punishment.

She said no, over and over again. No.

That's rape. End of story.

So, when did the story change?

You Got Bigotry in my Constitution

Right now I'm trying like hell not to cry. I just learned that the Pride flag that hangs in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco is flying at half mast after Prop 8 passed. A black flag has been added above it.

I haven't been able to really revel in the victory of Barack Obama, because the night was marred by the passing of Prop 8. Maybe it is because I was there the first day of same sex marriage at City Hall after the CA Supreme Court decision. Maybe it's because my step-sister is a lesbian. It's likely both those things, but more than that I think I'm crying because it's just so goddamn sad.

Sure, it's not over. Lawsuits will be filed, fights will be fought. But I've seen the elation on the faces of those who were finally, finally allowed to marry the loves of their lives, and the idea that anyone could snatch that from them is heartbreaking.*

I'll never understand the hate. I cannot fathom the fear. As apophenia says, "we will look back with horror at the time when Americans thought it was right to treat people differently based on who they loved."

*Yes, I know marriages until Tuesday are still valid. But that's not the larger point.

Rutherford County Students: Your Safety is Up to Interpretation

I honestly don't know whether to give up, cry or fly down to Tennessee to kick some superintendent ass:

But Byrnes said, “There were a couple times where she did say no or stop. The rest is up to interpretation.”

And according to Byrnes’ interpretation he said, “Nothing I could see indicated a sexual assault was taking place.”

But police detective Wayne Lawson says after watching the video, it was clear that an assault had occurred.

That’s what led to the rape and sexual battery charges police filed against Riverdale senior Brandon Stover.

Even the Rutherford County school spokesperson told the media he saw the girl ask for help.

Die in a fire, asshole.

Can't Believe They Went There. Despite All Previous Indications That They Would.

Check out the TN GOP. Shameless! I don't know why I continue to be surprised by the lows those yahoos will sink to, but I am aghast at every turn. Even all these years later.

You stay classy, Hobbs.


Dine and Dash: Get Them or It's Your Ass

Let's talk about those two servers who were shot at, one grazed by a bullet to the head, after chasing restaurant patrons who skated on their Joe's Crab Shack bill in Fisherman's Wharf. The report from CBS 5 states:

[A] group of four people were eating at Joe's Crab Shack at 245 Jefferson Street around 10 p.m. on Sunday. Two women in the group got up and left, followed shortly by the man and a 17-year old male. All left without paying.

The SFPD said two female servers followed the two males for several blocks before confronting them in the 600 block of Bay Street. That is when police said 36-year-old Marcel Waldron allegedly turned around, brandished a gun, and shot at the workers.

Two female servers pursued to male customers for several blocks? Then confronted them? Does this seem unequivocally dangerous to anyone?

Please note that these servers worked for a chain restaurant, Joe's Crab Shack. I point this out because I spent many years working for chain restaurants as I put myself through college. It was a soul-sucking experience in many regards. I felt my spirit crushed when I was working those jobs because, despite being paid $2.13 an hour by the company, servers were expected to do things like clean off the clock on their day off or work for ten hours without a break. I was also told, by more than one chain eatery, that if anyone "dined and dashed" on their tab that I was responsible for the bill.

Restaurants say this for a reason. It would be very easy for any server anywhere to pocket the cash left by a table of four then claim that the diners skated on the tab. The managers informed us that those diners were our resposibility, and that if they managed to take off without paying then we were not in control of our sections and did not deserve to work on the floor. And people did skate. It didn't happen very often, but sometimes. It was mostly kids. Or the occasional con artist. But every time I saw it happen the server from that table would bolt out the door looking for the cheapskate. Rarely did they catch up to them, but sometimes they did. Personally, I confronted a man who skated on his tab and he acted as though it totally slipped his mind, then he paid up. But he could have reacted any number of ways, which is made obvious by this account.

So, I have to wonder if the managers at Joe's Crab Shack encouraged those servers to confront the diners who dashed. It was pretty much a mandate at the places I worked. And I can't help but think that asking servers to take on those people--off the premises--is dangerous. (There was always debate amongst the server staff as to whether making servers pay for meals that went unpaid was even legal.) I thought of calling the restaurant to ask if they ordered those servers to confront the guy who shot at them, but I doubt I would make much headway.

Any of you ever work in restaurants that encouraged this behavior? It's not something the public at large would know about, but ex-servers are plentiful. Speak up in the comments and let me know your experience with this, if any.

[cross posted at Eye on Blogs]

Re: Diablo Cody

Apparently if you ever decide to take your clothes off for money, then go on to achieve anything notable, you will always and forever - - and usually right off the bat - - be described as a stripper.

Also, good for Cody. Always nice to see a blogger get an Oscar. [Always? Perhaps that was a first. Anyway...] But could we all please shut the fuck up about her now? She is clogging up my tubes.