“Why Don’t You Just Take a Cab?” – Trigger Warning

I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of being groped three blocks from my home – and I’ve never really written about that experience publicly. Then I saw this article: And now I need to say something.

For the record – I see her assault as much more violent than my own, but groping is still sexual assault, and it’s still incredibly traumatizing.

I was walking home at 11pm on a Thursday. I’d been at a burlesque show, and for those who aren’t aware, I carry a white cane. I was carrying my camera on one shoulder, a purse on the other and had my phone out. I was getting a text message – and I tend to use my phone’s flashlight to get around in the dark – I was trying to navigate to the flashlight app…

That’s when someone grabbed my left breast. I turned and screamed to get the fuck away from me. He ran away, and then turned to look at me, assuming (correctly) that I would not chase after him. I then ran – from that spot, to my home. Sobbing. I can’t remember who I called, but i called someone (I think it was my mom) and I was freaking out. I got home, and my then fiance helped me calm down while we called 911.

The first thing you should realize is that while this is not my first brush with sexual assault, it is my first brush with letting the police in on it.

My determination? They aren’t very helpful. And while I encourage every woman to report any sexual assault they experience, whether it be a random groping, or a rape – I totally understand why people don’t want to deal with the cops.

First, the cops shined their flashlights into the windows of SOMEONE ELSE’S house. And then when they came into my home they were unhelpful.

The male cop asked me if I should drink my tea since clearly I was already upset and they wanted me to calm down. They continued to ask me questions about my blessedly brief, but very traumatic incident, and then came the line that pissed me off the most.
“You shouldn’t be walking out by yourself at night” The female cop said. “You should ask a friend to pick you up, or take a cab, or walk home with your friends.”

And they played the blind card. That maybe I wouldn’t have had this happen to me if I’d seen him. They were looking for a serial groper, and clearly I was of no help to them. They called me back to follow-up, but they had nothing, and they continued every time someone spoke with me, to chastise me for leading my life. The Lieutenant in charge specifically called to tell me that I needed to be “more careful” and that I should “always have someone with me” and shouldn’t “go out after dark”.

Everything they said to me – and everything they said to the woman who was assaulted – give markers that we are to blame for these incidents.

Both myself, and the young woman who was assaulted on the subway were treated as though our choices to use public transportation, or to be out in public, or for that matter – to just walk home – were the cause for our attacks.

Guess what? Calling the assaulter a “Gentleman” as the cops did in the article, is not okay. Asking a woman who is panicking if the guy is her boyfriend? Also not OK.

Society blames survivors of sexual assaults for what happens to them. We are told not to dress a certain way, walk a certain way, or get home  a certain way – when the truth is that the cops, and society, need to change to protect everyone.

And no. It was not my fault.

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2 Comments

Filed under Feminism, War On Women

2 responses to ““Why Don’t You Just Take a Cab?” – Trigger Warning

  1. Theresa

    I fully admit that my run-ins with the law are limited to speeding tickets, traffic incidents, and that one time when I got caught shoplifting. On all of those occasions, I was treated with respect, even though I was usually in the wrong. And I have, thankfully, never been in a situation to report an assault against my person, sexual or otherwise.

    However, my take-away from this post, and the one that is linked, is a sense of unease- of dread, even. Never before have I been so uncertain of the response I would get from the police if I did need to report an incident. Living in Memphis, a city where the crime rate is three or more times the national average, would my case be handled professionally, or would I hear “What were you doing in that neighborhood, anyway?”

    As I said before, this is a situation and process of which I am mostly ignorant. However, I feel that the only thing worse than the pain and fear felt in the wake of a sexual assault is the realization that the police, whom we have been told since childhood are there to help and protect us, will not only do effectively nothing to catch the person who assaulted you, but will also compound your fear and pain with humiliation by placing the blame on the victim rather than where it belongs.

    If there is anything positive to be gained from such an outrageous situation as this one, it is to remind us that the police are not infallible, benevolent angels, they are human. They are men and women with many of the same deeply-ingrained biases and prejudices held by so many people in our country. This does not excuse the appalling, frustrating attitudes shown by these officers, but identifying the problem is the first step in fixing it, and I sincerely hope that one day I will be given cause to restore my faith in “America’s finest.”

  2. I am so sorry that this happened to you. I work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. All too often I hear that they weren’t taken seriously when they tried to tell someone, whether it be the law, or their friends and family. And even though I hear stories like this on a daily basis they still make me angry. You are right, it is not your fault. That man, and men like him, are responsible for their own actions. Period.

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