Woman Abused by Teen on the J

Note: See our update from an alleged witness who told SFist that the teen was provoked. Thank you, SFist, for spreading the word and reporting this story.

This shocking letter from the Noe Valley Voice (via reader Randy) had us thinking, “Has it really come to this?” The Muni incident began when a 60-year-old woman asked a teenage girl not to take up three seats on a packed J-Church train headed toward Mission High School. When the teenager refused after being asked repeatedly, things turned ugly. The woman recounts the incident to the Voice:

I very politely asked her if she would move her bag so two people could sit down. She said, “No.” I asked her again and she told me, “F- -k off.” I asked her a third time and told her that I would remove her bag if she didn’t do it herself. I reminded her that this was public transportation and that everyone on the streetcar had paid the same fare to enter and that she didn’t have the right to take three seats. I reminded her that these seats were reserved for seniors and people with disabilities. She told me to “f- -k off” again. I reached down to move her bag and when I did so, she stood up and very forcefully slapped me in the face, knocking off my glasses. I’m 60 years old and the surprise and force of her slap knocked me down. She then proceeded to curse at me, calling me a “f- -king bitch” and several other things.

As if that weren’t enough, the abuse allegedly continued until the teenager got off the streetcar at Church and 18th Street. You can read the rest of the incident in her letter here in Voice‘s May Letters to the Editor (scroll down to “Incident on Muni”).

The woman reported the incident to Muni but was told that nothing can be done if she could not identify the student. In her letter, she asked, “why aren’t there Muni guards riding on the J-Church line?”

“My feeling is that Muni is responsible to ensure that their paying passengers, especially seniors, are safe from harassment and physical violence while on public transportation,” she wrote.

Whether Muni is responsible for their passenger’s safety is one thing, but when teenagers feel free to use physical violence against an older person, it feels like we’re all responsible for this somehow.

18 comments

  • Millions in work orders to SFPD, and yet this happens. The Taraval Station’s police report detailed another really ugly incident with a gang of teens that ended with arrests and the bus stopping completely until the cops showed up.

    Kids like this know they can get away with crimes like this in SF and so long as they can, they’ll keep it up.

  • I’ve been thinking about what could have been done in this woman’s situation – the thing is, the kid got off the bus quickly and disappears into the school (I assume), where no one can identify her. Could the other passengers have held the kid (literally) until police arrived, in some sort of citizen justice manner? This sort of thing shouldn’t happen but what do we do if it does? I just don’t think it’s possible for SFPD or other officers to ride every bus.

  • RonMonster

    I’ve seen these unruly kids before on the J near Mission Middle and High Schools. Its the worst after school. They consistently display no manners or etiquette. And I too have never seen SFPD near or on a MUNI w/ the exception of Powell Station near the BART machines.

  • Anne

    Where were the other passengers? If the train was packed, then surely there was an abler body there to help her out. I, an able bodied female, have stepped in before when people are being disrespectful. And what was the response from the men around me? Nothing. Once the person in question left the car, the young gentleman beside me thanked me. What the hell? Come on people let’s help eachother out!!!

  • eugenia

    @Anne: In the letter, the woman said that the other passengers “tried to calm [the teenager] down” – but I’m not exactly sure what calming her down means exactly. If the teenager is physically abusing this woman, I think she needs more than “calming down.” Or at least the other passengers shouldn’t have let her disappear into the school fancy-free. But I think people are so afraid that the teenager is either carrying a weapon or might sue them for injuries that nobody did anything effective.

    @RonMonster: Do you think at this point SFUSD should be responsible for the behavior of their students after school?

  • I’m sure the woman who was abused was flustered (at minimum) by the incident, which may explain why she didn’t call the police on the spot?

    Isn’t that what we are “supposed” to do?

    I hate pinning things on drivers, but isn’t that what he should have done?

    Of course, if somebody did call the cops, it would have been eons until they showed up, and from what I gather, Muni is supposed to stop and wait (making all other passengers stop and wait) until police arrive.

    And, as Eugenia and other commenters say, who would have or could have held on to this girl during the wait?

    Hitting someone is obviously not okay. It’s assault. And, in this case, may have qualified as elder abuse.

    I wonder what that child has been through that she would actually assault a woman…

    But what I’m really getting here is that the general MO of ALL OF US is to ignore stuff like this because we don’t have great options about how to stop it.

    FAIL.

  • RonMonster

    @Eugenia.
    I don’t know if we can hold the school district responsible for student acts, violent or not, off campus before/after school hours, or not on school related business (field trips). My comment stems from dealing with these kids as my apartment is near the 3 schools and see them on a regular basis. Although this is not unique to Mission Dolores.

  • MG

    Correction & Update: This incident occurred between a Mission High student and 60-year-gentalmen. The student was identified and issued an apology to Mr. La Rose.

    • @MG: huh? the victim (and perp) was a woman. can u provide a source for what you’re claiming? good news if so. til then, color me skeptical.

  • Ian

    The male population in SF is mostly a bunch of spineless wankers. Sorry I wasn’t there. I would have had my fingers wrapped around neck face down on the floor and yelled instructions to staring morons to activate the emergency stop and call police. I’ve done this before against hooligans and I love it. I will never back down and let these friggin’ hoodlums get their way. Someday I’m sure I’ll get hurt standing up for myself and others but till that day comes, I’ll continue doing what I do and enjoying every minute of hurt I dish out.

  • Not Stupid in SF

    You better believe that your life is going to get a helluva lot more complicated and your wallet a lot lighter if you try to physically restrain these hoodlums. They ALSO know there are cameras and I promise they’ll be screaming to get the footage if you restrained them.

    I’ve watched 14 yr old girls pull knives on each other on a packed 22. You think I’m going to risk my life to stop them? I solve the problem by getting off the bus when certain demographics get on in numbers greater than 1.

  • Sam

    @Ian. I would also have stepped in and made a citizens arrest. But most people won’t do anything not because they’re spineless, but because the laws in the state of California make helping people in distress prohibitive. Criminals in the state of California have more rights than their victims. Had you stepped in and held this scummy teenager down you would most likely have been arrested yourseld and held on charges of child abuse or even worse someone might have accused you of being racially motivated. Unfortunately, in the city of San Francisco there is a large population of undereducated and even ignorant citizens who put our lives in jeopardy every day. Common citezens who pay their bills and work their asses of to live here are the most un-protected. The laws here protect the criminals and the ignorant.

  • Hi Jeff, I linked to this post on SFist this morning. Awesome story, BTW! We just got a comment from an alleged eye witness who said there was way more to the story than La Rose let on, and that La Rose was a man. (La Rose’s original letter doesn’t claim either way, except for the girl calling him a Bitch.)

    Sadly, I was there. What seems to be missing from the account is that the man was yelling crude obscenities at the teen and pulled the her legs off of the seats which initally escalated the exchange.

    Myself and the passengers around me couldn’t believe he would do that to a young woman, no matter how haughty she was. She responded so inappropriately that it just became a total mess.

    Many people ignored what was happening, and looked at their iPhones and it was also very crowded. Some did try to minimally restrain the girl, but I think no one whole-heartedly jumped in to help him b/c he was initially so disrespectful to her. The story was just not as black and white as portrayed.

    The worst part was seeing the young children going on a fieldtrip with their moms…ugh, the whole thing was ugly.

    • Thanks for filling us in here. Still a fucked-up tale, for sure. But goes to show that every story has
      many interpretations. I appreciate the discussion that’s taken place in these comments, as that’s what this site is all about. It’s no one’s Muni but our own, after all.

  • Done Being PC

    Try being on the bus when one of these little fuckers sets off a stink bomb. It has happened to me twice. Once on the 22 and once on the 26. If I ever have the chance, I’ll mace the shit out of them.

  • Dee

    It is your responsibility to arm yourself and have the ability to successfully defend yourself on Muni. Wake up.

    • @Dee: WHOA! arm yourself? i don’t know that a weaponized ridership is really the answer. the problem is deep, it’s true. and more work than most of us can muster. but i don’t see more violence as any kind of solution.

  • Justme

    Thank you Jeff for the answer to Dee.
    I’m not sure what is more scary, violent teenagers and adults or a buss full with arm people ready to kill each other or is the same?!

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