EDIT (12/17/13, 3:45pm): Within hours of this post going viral, I received a call from Helen Moore, the CSD for Golden Gate Bus. It was a good call. They’re paying attention. They want to fix this. I don’t know what will happen with the driver who laughed and shook my harasser’s hand, but their official statement is “We are listening and are investigating the matter at the highest level of our organization.”
EDIT (12/18/13, 3pm): Overwhelmed, thankful, and feeling incredibly, indescribably raw right now. PTSD adrenaline/hypervigilance + gaslighting + judgement + extreme exposure = losing my lunch a couple of times since this story went viral. I am appreciative to every person who’s reached out with compassion, and to the GGT representatives for being so proactive and professional in their response. A request: can everyone please stop rallying to get the driver fired? That’s not going to help ANYTHING. I do NOT support that. I can’t imagine what kind of horrorshows public transit drivers deal with on a reg. basis. The bus driver was young. My harasser was obviously aggressive. I was shaking, yelling, terrified, angry. The driver made a big mistake by not taking me seriously and calling the police when I repeatedly begged him to. He made a big mistake by shaking my harasser’s hand and laughing while I stood there in shock and continuing to beg for help. That was frightening and dehumanizing for me. But I don’t want to dehumanize him. I really don’t. I spoke up because what happened is unacceptable and nothing like it should ever, ever happen on Golden Gate Transit again. But I don’t want a young man who was obviously inadequately trained to handle a volatile situation (and probably fearful) to lose his job. I just want him, and everyone else with his responsibilities, to get the training they need to do a BETTER job. That being said, I do hope there’s bus cam footage of my harasser. He approached me in the middle of the night, became enraged when I wouldn’t talk to him, was further enraged when I made the decision to stand firm and yell at him, and then told me he was going to lay hands on me and that I deserved to be raped “for being a bitch” and more. He’s definitely said and done stuff just like that before, probably worse. He’ll do it again, I have no doubt.
Oof. This is scary and hard. My hands keep shaking. Gotta take a break. Signing off for a while. Thanks again for the overwhelming support.
Go tell someone you love them.
EDIT: (12/19/13, 1:45pm) An apology has been issued. Read it, and some responses here.
EDIT: (12/23/13) I’ve written a big update here.
Last night I took the bus into San Francisco from Sausalito to see the incredible Anna Von Hausswolff perform at the Rickshaw Stop. After the show, I walked a friend over to Civic Center BART, ate a fast food snack, and then headed to the 70/80 Golden Gate Transit bus stop at Mission & 5th. During that time, the battery on my phone died. Bleh. Bad timing. I endured a lot of casual harassment from different men at different points and felt pretty spooked. I waited alone at 5th and Mission between midnight and one o’clock for my Sausalito bus. At one point a leering dude in a sportscar backed up to the bus stop and asked “hey, baby, where you going, can I give you a ride” and when I shook my head, he called me a cunt and peeled off. Which sucked… but you know what was way worse? *Another* guy showed up shortly after that, got WAY closer to me than necessary, looked me up and down, gave me a “hey baby, how you doin’” and, when I was unwilling to engage in conversation with him, became infuriated and wouldn’t leave me alone.
Over the course of five minutes, he verbally threatened me with rape, a beating, and kept trying to lurch closer to me. When I barked “BACK OFF” and raised my fists, he took a couple steps back, but unzipped his pants and started pantomiming taking his dick out while continuing to call me a bitch and a stuck-up ho. “I am going to slap you, bitch. You deserve to get raped. You deserve a dick in your ass. Stuck-up ugly slut. You’re gonna get raped because you’re a bitch and bitches deserve whatever they get.” At one point he made a motion as if he was going for something tucked into the back of his pants. I just kept yelling at him as loudly and aggressively as I could. But I was genuinely scared at that point.
It was the middle of the night. I was alone, without a working phone or pepper spray. But we were in a brightly lit place, so I decided to stand my ground and keep yelling at him to stay the fuck away from me and hope the bus would arrive soon, which it did. I rushed to it. The doors to the bus opened, and I called to the driver, “this man just threatened to rape and beat me and started to expose himself, please don’t let him on.” Blank stare from the bus driver. My harasser actually pushed past me, got on the bus, sat down in the front seat, told the bus driver “pay this bitch no mind, she’s a crazy-ass prostitute” and laughingly told him, “she been harassing ME”.
I again asked the bus driver to either get him off the bus or call the cops. The bus driver refused to do either, and then, as I watched, he laughed good-naturedly along with my harasser and *actually shook his hand* when the harasser reached over. I was stunned. I stood at the head of the bus and kept saying “why aren’t you listening to me? Please call the cops. Don’t let him stay on the bus.” With my harasser sitting right there in the front row, I refused to budge from the front of the bus, holding onto the railing, continuing to ask the bus driver to get him off the bus or call the police.
Harasser: “Sit your ass down, bitch.” Bus driver: stoically doing nothing. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to budge, my harasser got downright jolly with the driver, said “Imma go sit in the back of the bus where I belong now” and they appeared to share a moment of connection over my perceived overreaction. The implication being, I guess, that my response to threats of rape and a beating from a stranger while minding my own business alone at a bus stop in the middle of the night was somehow racist. I was in shock and shaking and continued to hold onto the railing at the front of the bus. The driver eventually ordered me to sit down. So I did. And then asked him: “why aren’t you doing anything? Why did you shake his hand and laugh? That guy threatened to hurt me and rape me. Why would you do that?” He basically ignored my questions. Ignored me.
I sat there, in shock, while my harasser continued to yell threats and insults at me from the rear of the bus. A couple of stops later, a vaguely familiar person stepped on board. I noticed he was wearing a DNA Lounge hoodie and said “hey, you work at DNA, don’t you? Hi, I’m Meredith.” “Hi, I’m Mango.” I asked if he had a pen I could borrow, and he did. I asked the bus driver for his name. He wouldn’t give it to me. So I wrote down the number of the bus on a scrap of paper and gave the pen back. And then chatted pleasantly with Mango for the rest of the journey back to Sausalito. Upon exiting the bus, I told the bus driver “that was really not cool, man. This is why women are afraid.” He just stared at me blankly. Didn’t say anything. Drove away. I walked the rest of the way home in daze.
This morning I called the Golden Gate Transit hotline and filed a report. I genuinely do not want to get the driver fired. He seemed young and totally clueless and lacking in empathy, but not actively unkind. I just hope that some sort of protocol adjustment happens. Some kind of conversation where it’s made clear to each and every driver that when a woman begs them to call the cops or to bar an aggressive man from their bus, they should DO THAT.
What happened to me last night is nothing compared to what a lot of women endure, I know. I don’t mean to trivialize anyone else’s experiences by talking about my own. And I realize that public transit drivers probably endure far scarier confrontations themselves from time to time and dread the potential for violence. But I still wanted to mention that this happened publicly, because speaking up seems more constructive than saying nothing.
Bottom line: I’m really glad I didn’t get raped, beaten, or killed while trying to get home alone last night. I’m grateful that I got to hang out with Mango, having a kindly human interaction instead of sitting there alone, feeling subhuman and invisible, for the rest of that bus ride. Thank you, Mango. And all things considered, I’m still very glad I came out for that Anna Von Hausswolff show. She is really special. Her voice is powerful and good and gives me hope. If you like doomy, witchy, ethereal music, you should buy her album Ceremony. It’s gorgeous.
TL;DR — Music heals. Silence is death. Don’t ignore women when they tell you they’re in immediate danger and beg you for help.