What it’s like when somebody sexually assaults you on the bus

Last week our pal Brittney wrote about being phonejacked on the bus. This week, as if Brittney were a Lars von Trier heroine, shit got way worse:

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.

Read on.

62 Responses to “What it’s like when somebody sexually assaults you on the bus”

  1. Brittney says:

    In before “that’s not sexual assault!”

  2. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    The reaction (or lack thereof) of the SFPD in this case is actually even more disturbing than the assault itself. Pretty fucked up all around.

    • The reaction of the victim is a little disturbing, too. Why not stick your fingers in his motherfucking eyes? That’s the kind of thing I keep in my head every single day, because I walk the streets of the Mission. That’s what I expect to have to do because I live in this shit-hole.

      • holy cow says:

        wow, you are super tough, cranky old mission guy. You should probably be a guardian angel or something. You must have such strong fingers for stabbing into eyes. I’m impressed you walk the streets of the mission. Ya super tough.

      • Bill P. says:

        Ok, Charlie Bronson. Too bad you weren’t on the bus, then you would have been able to use your super sick grappling technique to help this girl out rather than calling her a pussy on a public forum that you know she reads.

        • Special comment for you, piece-of-shit. I didn’t call her a “pussy” — you did.

          • Bill P. says:

            LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL. You crack me up, dude. Since you’re perfectly fulfilling the role of internet tough guy right now, allow me to be your grammer nazi and let you know that “piece of shit” isn’t hyphenated when used as a slur. Please note, however, that were you to use it as an compound adjective you WOULD want to hyphenate it. For example: your piece-of-shit brain generates stupid thoughts, you piece of shit.

          • Really, asshole? No apology? You call Brittney a pussy, and all you have to offer in response to my challenge is a bogus language correction? I think that pretty much seals the deal on who you are.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Grammar-nazi-fail. Anything-can-be-hyphenated-d00d.

          • Bilbo says:

            Hahaha, Bill P., that was amazingly dumb.

      • Alex says:

        Someone should poke this old dude in the eyes so he can’t read this blog no more!

        • Assaulted says:

          I’ve never been sexually assaulted but I have been assaulted, badly beaten is another way to describe it. It ain’t fun, it is emasculating, it made me cry a bit hours later. I can now say that I cannot have any reasonable expectation of being safe in public. I can only be situationally aware. I can only reduce the opportunity for abuse by reducing my exposure. To me exposure includes common activities such as walking down the street. I do things now that I used to not do. I never wear headphones. I usually leave my wallet at home. I hardly ever carry a cell phone. I count out just enough cash for whatever I’m out to do. I don’t take Muni ever. Never.

          I think Old Crank has a point, maybe it was not well said, and maybe we should be gentle with victims, but the point is real, you have to take responsibility for your own safety. It sucks but no one cares if you get fucked up, in fact some people get off on seeing it happen. MUNI don’t care, SFPD don’t care. Perhaps your mom may care. I’m sure mine would if she were still living.

          A very similar thread appeared on Reddit a few days ago. There were many comments similar to Old Crank’s. They come off crass and unsympathetic. And yet what choice do you have? You don’t have any. You have to have an expectation that shit will go down.

          • AttF says:

            I think you have a very valid point and these are things we must consider. I also had to learn about the ugly realities of urban life the hard way. At one time, I felt that it was my right to walk/live in my neighborhood how/when I wanted. Unfortunately, after multiple robberies and attempted home invasions, it became clear that there were people in that hood that didn’t give a shit about my rights and would exploit my idealism/naivete whenever it benefited them. While I think my feelings of violation were more than valid, they did nothing to affect the reality that I had to change my behavior to protect myself in that environment. The violator is still the violator and in the wrong, but we are also our own first line of defense. I don’t think that line of thought negates the fact that situations like the Muni assault are still very shitty things happening to people who don’t deserve them, to say the least.

      • En-Chu Lao says:

        Darkest of night
        With the moon shining bright
        There’s a set goin’ strong
        Lotta things goin’ on
        The man of the hour
        Has an air of great power
        The dudes have envied him for so long

        Oh, superfly
        You’re gonna make your fortune by and by
        But if you lose, don’t ask no questions why
        The only game you know is do or die

        Hard to understand
        What a hell of a man
        This cat of the slum
        Had a mind, wasn’t dumb
        But a weakness was shown
        ‘Cause his hustle was wrong
        His mind was his own
        But the man lived alone

        COMG = Es nuestro propio SUPER MOSCA! Go on wit yo bad self!

        After Super-Mosca gets done with him the perp is gonna need hizzelf an “Amber-lamps”.

      • My, my, my… it looks like something I wrote twisted the knickers of the MM sock-puppets in a knot! What could it have been? Couldn’t have been the rough language, which was directed only at the perp, and the Mish, not at the vic! Couldn’t have been the advice to the vic to learn some practical self-defense strategies, either — feminist activists have been teaching that stuff since before most of you wimps were born. In fact, that’s where I picked up a lot of it. What I think is… someone here was jacking-off to fantasies about groping strangers, or being groped by old Chinese ladies, and suddenly lost his hard-on while reading about dirty, crippling retaliation. That’s probably what happened.

        Or it could have been, I suppose, my opinion that the image of The Mission as a hipster heaven is a total myth, and that it is, in fact, a little piece of stinky, disgusting Hell, these days, that did it. That kind of information tends to disturb the naive and silly.

        The thing is, I am far from tough, physically. I’m old, and short, and there’s a couple of other things about me (which I won’t mention, to avoid becoming easier to identify) which make me look like a target to certain types of Mission scumbags. But I have made a point of learning things that city-savvy women have also learned. I know how to end a fight quickly, and make sure that it doesn’t come back to haunt me later. When people fuck with me, they see the way I look at them, and they hear the way I talk to them, and they know that they are one step away from something very bad happening to them.

        You can joke all you want, but that just makes you the person with a target on his back, in a weak moment.

      • Rebecca Buck says:

        I understand your reaction, I do. As a female-identified lady, I regularly plan out in my head what I would do if (really: when) I am sexually assaulted/sexually made uncomfortable in public. Every single time, I come to the same conclusion: I would break the fucker’s nose.

        I think it, but when it happens, that’s never what I do. I shrink down into a little ball and pretend that the dude rubbing his leg up against mine (no matter how far I try and move away) in a crowded subway car is doing it unknowingly. That it’s in my head. Because that’s what I’ve been taught to think and do: to internalize it, that I’m overreacting, that it’s “not really a crime.”

      • Archana says:

        There’s been times when I thought I was being attacked (non sexually) which elicited a tough city girl, fight or flight response within me.

        But during Carnival, when some creepy smiling old guy smacked my ass, I was mostly shocked, disgusted, ashamed and felt violated. I ran into my work and couldn’t go outside for the next few hours. Why do you think that is?

        So, I agree with you. This is a pretty disturbing reaction to have to sexual assault. Do you think if instead of robbery or assault, you were worried more about rape and sexual assault, you would have a different reaction to those shadows on the street?

        P.S Your comment makes it sound like she was “asking for it”, that she wasn’t prepared enough. It really makes me uncomfortable.

  3. Joseph says:

    I was on the 38 geary once when some old chinese lady totally felt up my junk. she pretended it was an accident but it was totally not an accident. I thought it was weird/hilarious. I think it’s different when you’re a guy and your assailant is an octogenarian chinese woman.

  4. Delicate fleur says:

    It’s very sad that the first thought that popped into my head upon reading this was shock that an adult woman had never been groped by a stranger before. Good for you for reporting it, though. Whenever it’s happened to me, I’ve just taken it for granted as one of those things you have to deal with when you live in a city. That shouldn’t be the case, though, of course.

  5. Rajeev says:

    Brittany, real sorry this happened to you. I see it happen to often, not to mention the catcalling and other BS women have to put up with out there. It’s really disturbing and having been targeted for harassment in my life because of the color of my skin I know that it is a jarring experience to be minding your own and realize that someone is going out of their way to disturb a person. Women obviously have it much worse and it isn’t always safe or possible to stand up for yourself as a man or a woman. But when a woman can in a public place, like you did, I think it’s a good thing. Raise a stink, get mad, chew the bastard out, let everyone around know he’s a disturbed human being, pretend he’s a boyfriend that cheated on you an embarrass the hell out of them, take his picture with your phone and let everyone know you are doing it. It shouldn’t be a woman’s responsibility, but it has to be. Women need to stand up for themselves the way the women suffragettes of old did and create some consequences and elicit the help of the woman around them. There is a struggle out there, but half the population is oblivious to it, because they don’t get called out enough. And it’s a sad fact that a lot of police officers are jaded, tired, and like many people not that into their jobs. If you find an officer that wont listen patiently I suggest asking to speak with someone else, sometimes it works and get you someone who is actually interested in rooting out a particular problem.

  6. Swanky says:

    This woman should move away from the city until she develops better judgment. If she’s a woman… And if she lives in the city.

    Its no coincidence that she’s the same one who had her phone stolen. She admits she wasn’t paying attention then, despite the big sign right above her head. She admits she didn’t move away from the crazy bus groper when all the other women did this time.

    Then, after it happens, she goes and lets two new strangers ply her with alcohol… “gruner veltliner” her “favorite.”

    Seems like a troll that enjoys playing the victim archetype. Not saying this is acceptable behavior, or even disputing that what was described was sexual assault. Just not sure this happened at all.

    Just because I’m reading it on the internetz doesn’t make it real. Reads too much like an old Penthouse Forum letter.


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

    And I did.

  7. GinGin says:

    I’m glad all these guys know what’s best for us women. I especially love all the mansplainin’ about how to avoid sexual assault in an urban environment! Thanks bros!!!!

    • GG says:

      I’ve always really liked these “tips for avoiding sexual assault” (http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/preventing-sexual-assault-tips-guaranteed-to-work/):

      1. Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.
      2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!
      3. If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!
      4. NEVER open an unlocked door or window uninvited.
      5. If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!
      6. Remember, people go to laundry to do their laundry, do not attempt to molest someone who is alone in a laundry room.
      7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
      8. Always be honest with people! Don’t pretend to be a caring friend in order to gain the trust of someone you want to assault. Consider telling them you plan to assault them. If you don’t communicate your intentions, the other person may take that as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.
      9. Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!
      10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone “on accident” you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

  8. Opie Arrillaga says:

    I know this is awful. But I just dont think that a grope is that bad. Yes, I am a guy.

  9. Alex says:

    A guy with no mother, sisters, maybe girlfriend? For the record, I’m a dude, and think it’s bullshit that there are people coming on here with a y chromosome trying to relate and/or diminish something we can’t really relate to….

    • Lillian says:

      While the whole ‘y chromosome’ thing could be debated (I don’t actually want to get in that debate), I was wondering something along the same lines myself.

  10. Chris says:

    I was surprised the sexist trolls didn’t come out sooner, but I see now they’ve all arrived in good time.

    No one deserves to be assaulted.

  11. h20igo says:

    She still had her earphones on after her phone theft?
    Yes, we are entitled to be free. We happen to live a a major city, as women we need to be aware of our surroundings at all times, having a headphone on does not allow us to do that. If you don’t want shit to happen to you, start being more aware.

    • Brittney says:

      How would my not having had headphones on prevented him from grabbing my crotch? I’m unclear.

      • scum says:

        Nothing cool about getting robbed or groped, but the way you describe people in both posts makes you seem like a snob. Also going into a whole story about your favorite wine and what the people on table x were havings takes away from your story.

        • Brittney says:

          Sincerely appreciate this feedback, as I always want to improve my storytelling skills.

          • scum says:

            NP, glad to know that you saw I wasn’t trying to be mean.

          • GG says:

            Just one more bit of general feedback… I hope you have given a lot of thought to the potential consequences of having an easily-identifiable face pic on the blog. It’s fun to feel like people might recognize you, but especially when the picture is attached to a narrative about where you go and what you do each day, unfortunately the world we live in makes that a little risky. I used to write a relatively popular blog about a topic on which I had expertise, and even though my pictures were (I thought) not that recognizable (from weird angles, etc.), I got recognized more than once in a manner that was… disconcerting. I just want you to be as safe as possible. :)

          • So you know, GG, your own Flickr self-pics look pretty recognizable, too. You might want to restrict access to them if you’re that concerned.

        • Alex says:

          your name sure is appropriate. she was describing her full experience/memore of the details, wth? ever heard of stream of consciousness?

  12. pfffff says:

    If a man will grab a woman’s crotch in public, imagine what he does with your Mom in private!

  13. la dee da says:

    In a perfect world, we should be able to walk around the city safely, HOWEVER this is the F*CKING city! Sorry this happened, city living requires situational awareness AT ALL TIMES!

  14. Lillian says:

    Surprisingly, I’m not here to bring my bitter attitude (I’m trying to work on that) towards some perceived snooty tone in your story (which there wasn’t one this time anyways), but to offer my condolences in this situation. I can’t empathize on the loss of a device that I think is destroying society anyways, but I can most definitely empathize with this. I’ve been in more than one situation like this, and I applaud your courage in reporting the situation. Even when the piggie tried to discourage you so he could avoid the extra work load, you kept up your original plan. That’s something I never could have done myself. I read your follow up and I’m glad your original encounter with them was no indication of the work they put forward later. Good luck in all things to follow.

    I would be mad at the comments I’m reading on this blog, but they’re just typical and I’d be a hypocrite.

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