When fellow women are your first line of defense on Muni

In these #MeToo times, it’s inspiring to see women speaking up for themselves and standing up, sometimes literally, for one another. Here’s Muni rider Teresa with a disturbing but empowering commuter tale from the 1-California.

I take the 1 home from work every day around 6 p.m.

I’m usually pretty aware of my surroundings, but I had a particularly rough day at work, so I had my headphones in and I was seriously zoning out.

As I’m almost falling asleep, I hear this particularly loud voice above my music, and it starts to wake me up. I take off my headphones to find the source of the angry voice.

I looked toward the front of the bus and quickly realized that a man was yelling something at a woman. I listened a little harder, and I start hearing what he’s saying to her. I’m not going to repeat it, but it was some horrible stuff.

I’m no stranger to catcalling or street harassment, but this was on another level.

This is something that I can’t stand for. Any time I see some asshole intimidating a woman on the street or on Muni, I have to step in. It’s gotten me into a lot trouble, but I cannot just walk away. Most of the time, I’m the only one. I’ve never been helped when some dude is harassing me, and there are very few times when I’ve seen another person step in.

So, I put my phone in my backpack and zip it up thinking “OK, here we go again.” And my brain starts running through all the possible scenarios: “What if he attacks me? Does he have a weapon? What if he goes after someone else?”

As I’m about to get up and confront him, another woman pushes past me, walks directly up to the woman being harassed, and simply says “Do you feel safe?”

At this point, the woman at the front of the bus is shaking so hard she can’t even speak. So the other woman put her hand on the lady’s shoulder and said “Come to the back of the bus with me, we can sit together.”

As the two women are walking to the back of the bus, that guy gets up and tries to follow them, yelling vile comments the whole time. But as he’s trying to get to them, a few other women stand up, and they block his path. Then, I got up and stood with them. And before I knew it there were six or seven women creating this barrier.

That man looked at us, yelled one last shitty thing, and got off at the next stop. Because he realized there was no way he could win against all of us.

Immediately after he leaves, the woman he was harassing bursts into tears. He had been following her for 10 blocks. She didn’t know what to do, so she got on the bus. She was five months pregnant. We all just listened to her and after she stopped crying, she thanked us. The woman who came to her rescue sat down next to me. My stop was the next one. As I left, the only thing I could do was look at her and say thank you. After I got off the bus, I started crying. I was sad because we have to deal with situations like this ALL the time, but I was crying happy tears because, for once, I felt like I wasn’t alone, and I felt how powerful we are when we stand together.

Props to these women for being the first and only line of defense during this scary encounter.

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Pic by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

8 comments

  • Ruth

    Well done all of you ladies for standing up to that bully!

  • Virginia Balogh-Rosenthal

    This happened to me on the NYC subway many years ago. A big guy was putting his hand on my butt in a rush hour train. I moved away, he moved right with me, and glared at me. The other women in the car encircled me (which I affectionately callled my Circle of Safety) and he got off the train!

  • Nikole

    Stuff like this has happened to me many times on MUNI and other public transit. No one has ever tried to intervene – I always do when I see it happening to someone else. I can sort of understand how strangers don’t want to get involved, but I find it appalling that MUNI drivers ignore it and just drive on like nothing’s happening. When I used to ride the 14 Mission regularly, there were several times I helped break up physical altercations on the bus and the driver just kept going. There’s something in the law about them having a duty to provide safe passage. I wish there was some way to hold them accountable when they don’t.

  • Mrs. Beverley Knappstead

    Where is the bus driver in all this? Can’t they do something to help?

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  • Henry Larry

    This story is both heartbreaking and empowering. Kudos to these women for stepping up and creating a barrier against harassment.
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