I live in St. Louis and have, for the past year and a half, relied on public transit to get to my office. I am a graduate student, and money is generally tight, but the university I go to provides parking passes to students free of charge, which helps out a lot.
Last Tuesday, I had been stuck in the lab working well past the time I would usually leave. I got on the train at about 9:30 PM, and I was one of maybe only three people in that car. The other two were guys way in the back. At the next stop, some guy gets on the train and sits right across from me, and just stares. And stares. And stares. I tried to ignore him, but I knew he was still staring.
When the train pulled up at my stop (Maplewood-Manchester), I got up to get off, and he got up right behind me. I got off the train and decided to stand at the station to wait for him to leave. He did, but when I went down the stairs, he was still at the bottom, talking to some guy, but heading in another direction. I took the alternative route back toward my apartment, and, a minute or so later, I hear someone walking behind me. I looked, and it was the same guy from the train. By this time, it was 9:45 PM, it was dark, all I wanted to do was go home, and I had some idiot from the metro following me.
He started trying to talk to me, complimenting my figure (I was wearing a huge, unflattering coat that goes down below my knees – so sexy, right?). When I ignored him, he sped up and started yelling at me (What’s wrong? Where you goin’? I not good enough for you?), and I was still alone, and it was still dark, and I still really just wanted to go home.
I finally called a friend because I was afraid he would assault me or worse if I told him to back off. Again, I was alone, it was dark out, there was no one else in sight, so there is no way he had good intentions. There had been at least one “stranger rape” near my university the week before, so I had that on my mind the whole time.
I started loudly explaining where I was and what was going on, at which point he started yelling obscenities at me, accusing me of being uppity, and threatening me, saying I had better not be calling the police. He did cross to the other side of the street, though, and just before I got to my complex, he headed down another street, still yelling at me.
I got back to my apartment feeling stupid and scared. I couldn’t sleep because I thought he might have watched me go into my apartment, so all night I thought someone might be coming to break my door down. I felt like there was nothing I could do because, if I had called the police, it would have been his word against mine, and even then, he did not touch me. He only threatened.
This is not an isolated incident. Every single time I take the metro, I get harassed. The time of day doesn’t matter. Everything from “Hey beautiful, is that a new skirt?” to “Fuck you, bitch why don’t you take my number, bitch!” if I refuse to take some guy’s number. It is the second time I’ve been followed back to my apartment complex by someone from the train who is pissed at me for not paying attention to him.
This incident was the last straw. For my physical safety, I bought a parking pass that I cannot afford. The men who harass women around here want us to stay home, in the kitchen, where we belong, out of “their” territory. Now I feel like I have given in to part of that, because I refuse to take public transit in this city anymore without others with me, and I already had to stop riding my bike in to the office because of guys who would slow down and drive beside me, “complimenting” my butt, blocking my way, or trying to get me to get into their car.
I’ve come to the conclusion that street harassers are bad for the environment – so many of us would not be driving to work or school, by ourselves, in our personal vehicles if we just had the freedom to ride our bikes or take the train!
Location: St. Louis