The Twerk Assault And The Need To Take Street Harassment Seriously
Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of the story concerning the man who called the police on the women who twerked on him in a gas station in Washington D.C.
For one, the charge of third-degree sex abuse, which carries a possible prison bid of up to 10 years, seems a little excessive for what I witnessed in the video. This is especially true when compared with the sentence of the serial groper who attacked six women, including a police officer. He was only given six months in prison. And those consequences also seem a little excessive when compared to the time I’d reported a creep who damn near stuck his penis in my driver’s side window, and yet, I couldn’t even get a police report.
The whole sensationalist framing around this case just had me feeling some type of way. But after watching the victim in question tell his own side of the story, I can definitely understand more about his victimization.
According to the Fox affiliate in D.C., the victim, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of further backlash, said that he was talking to a friend on the telephone when he was accosted and molested by two women at a Northeast D.C. gas station. As he described the assault to the news station, the women were “grabbing all over my body parts nonstop, asking me to go with them as if they were prostituting themselves. Asking for money. I assumed they were trying to get to my wallet – I don’t know what they were trying to do. But they first touched my private part in the front, then private part in the back. Then rubbing all over my chest and grabbing me. If I had done that, I would have probably been arrested, thrown to the ground. Twenty years in prison. No out. These being women, I’m thinking they are not women. I am thinking they are men dressed as women because they had strength like men. They didn’t have strength like average women. So it is a double standard.”
The victim also alleges that in addition to the molestation, the women followed him outside of the store and flashed him as he pumped gas, which should have cleared up any confusion he had about their gender.
One of the perpetrators has been arrested; the other is still on the run. While the victim isn’t sure why he was targeted, he assumes that the women were part of a setup orchestrated by two men who had been standing outside of the gas station and who he assumed were their pimps. He also told reporters that he asked the station attendant for help to which the attendant allegedly responded, “What do you want me to do?”
Feeling threatened by the women who continued to follow him around, the victim said that he was left with no choice but to ask his friend on the phone to call the police for him.
And you know what? I don’t blame him.
Although I do wonder if much of the fear he felt was based on his original thought that these women were trans women. And I also wonder about the other two men he mentioned as accomplices to these women, in particular, why they are not also not being pursued by police.
But I do feel that he had every right to call the police, especially if he felt threatened.
While society tends not to see men as victims at the hands of women (and even mocks such occurrences), it does happen. For instance, in 2013, a Philadelphia man was killed and dismembered by two sex workers and a pimp after a botched robbery attempt. So I can certainly see how he could feel that these women were trying to set him up.
And I don’t begrudge him for calling the police and reporting the incident. This is important to note because whenever the topic of street harassment comes up, there are folks who denounce the entire conversation because of concerns they have about over-policing in Black communities and mass incarceration.
And while the over-policing in Black communities and mass incarceration are both legitimate and urgent issues, our politics should never get in the way of our personal safety.
That goes for both men and women.
Moreover, while the victim may feel that the reaction his assault has received nationally is reflective of a double standard, he and others like him should know that women are rarely believed too.
A day after this story broke, I watched a video on Facebook of a woman being filmed and harassed by an unknown man in a corner store. To get away from his unwanted gaze, which included derogatory references to her body, the scared woman walked out of the store and then darted across the street to safety.
The videographer, also known as the assailant, made light of her panic by suggesting “Damn, it ain’t that serious.”
Also suggesting that the incident was not that serious was the video’s caption itself, which read, “When you’re scared you might get raped.” Three laughing-to-tears emoticons followed it.
In general, when we fail to take sexual assault and harassment that happens to women seriously, we can’t be too surprised when men are not given the benefit of the doubt as well.