I Confronted Sexual Assault on a Train

by July 14, 2012
filed under Activism

Location: DC, Metro – Orange Line towards Vienna starting at Farragut West Metro stop; confrontation occurred near Courthouse stop.

Time: Night (7:30pm-12am).

It was the Fourth of July, and we were coming back from the National Mall. A group of us were on a crowded train and an older guy in his late 50s/early 60s, balding white hair, 5’2″, with a European (non-British) accent was using one of those super-zoom point and shoot cameras to take photos of women’s body parts. I didn’t say anything at first because it looked like he could have been taking some urban/street photography photos. But after noticing him taking photographs of exclusively women and specific body parts, I decided to confront him.He was sitting on the aisle seat, first row next to where the map is displayed at each end of a metro car, so he had a lot of open space to take his photos. I went up to him and bent down and said, “you can delete the photos you’ve been taking of women’s body parts, or I’m going to announce to everyone exactly what you’re doing.”

I knew that if he was a real urban/street photographer, he would have responded by defending his body of work. Instead, he feigned not understanding English, and I instead announced it aloud for everyone on my half of the car to hear. He brought up going to the police, and I said it is perfectly within his First Amendment rights to take photos of people in public who have no expectation of privacy, but I was going to let everyone know what he was doing. He tried denying taking photos and I stood directly in front of him, facing him – he kept wanting to go to the police (probably knowing he is within his right), and I kept suggesting he get off the train.

Eventually, he got off at Virginia Square, and it appears the women directly around him kind of had an idea what he was doing and mouthed/said thanks. The two big takeaways for me were: Take a photo next time of the guy in the act (or just a pic of him) – urban/street photogs (real ones) are often confused for these “bottom feeder” photographers.

As a photographer myself, I loathe being associated with these guys. But as long as the person is in public and there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, they are not technically doing anything illegal. If they were using the camera to commit a crime like upskirt photos, that’s a different story and the cops should be called in immediately. These photographers are cowards and shrink away in the face of confrontation.

Submitted on 7/5/12 by “WC.”

Published with permission from Collective Action for Safe Spaces.

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