When serious street harassment and assault occurs, it’d be nice to think we can call the cops or run and find an officer to help. I can recall about a dozen or so people whose stories I’ve read who have asked for help from cops and they’ve found responses to be mixed, from hearing “what do you expect” to complete indifference to concern to receiving active help in trying to catch the perpetrator. So the (unsurprising) lesson I take away is there’s a chance you’ll get the help you need and there’s a chance you won’t (so we need to educate cops and hold them responsible for helping so that the chances of getting help improve)!
In this context, the following story caught my eye because it shows the kind of luck you may have if you approach a cop in NYC for help with a street harasser. Via Gothamist:
“Greenpoint resident Chrissie Brodigan says she was riding on the L train between Bedford and First Avenue when her pug, who has health problems, overheated and began vomiting in the tote bag she was carrying him in. As she was leaving the subway station with the dog in her arms, she says a police officer’s attempt to issue her a ticket turned ugly, and when she became upset the cop began saying, “If you’re going to act like a woman I’m going to treat you like a woman.”
[In a second article, Gothamist reports witness Jason Wagner said the officer told her, “Do you wanna talk like a woman? Do you wanna get knocked around like a woman?”]
According to Brodigan, the arresting officer’s name is Witriol (badge number 942838). After seeing a photo, she identified him to us as Joel Witriol, who in 2006 became New York’s first Hasidic cop. Brodigan, 32, says Witriol would not accept her explanation that she was carrying the pug because it was sick, and she believes that the disturbed crowd that gathered to witness the arrest only made him angrier. She tells us, “He punched me in the back (there are bruises), he handcuffed me, and in the scuffle grabbed my breasts and pinched them.”
Melissa Randazzo, a speech language pathologist who lives in Williamsburg, witnessed the arrest and tells us, “something about it seemed very wrong. The cop’s tone seemed really inappropriate and he kept saying things like, ‘Are you going to act like a woman?’ She tried to walk away, and then he grabbed her and pushed her against the wall outside the turnstile.” Randazzo ran up to the street level to call 911 to, as she says, “call the cops” on Witriol, and soon some 20 officers had descended into the Bedford station. They then ordered the witnesses to disperse.”
Brodigan was arrested, handcuffed and jailed and the cops threatened to take her dog to the pound to be put down. She received three tickets for failing to produce ID, disorderly conduct, and failing to have dog in a container. When she was released she asked for a pen to write down their badge numbers but they refused. They did return her pug.
The New York Post printed a similar story, though it says one witness claims Brodigan made anti-Semitic insults to the officer, however, other witnesses and Brodigan deny this. Hopefully this is untrue, but even if it was, would it justify physically harming her?
On the other hand, no one denies that the officer spewed misogynistic filth or that he left bruises on her body. It’s quite chilling for women to realize there are men with these attitudes out there who are supposed to be “protecting” us from harassers, but in reality, they are harassers too, just with badges and authority.