The Infuriating Story Of A Subway Creep — & How The Cops Responded

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.
A New York City woman's story of sexual harassment on the subway is going viral — for all the wrong reasons. The woman, a 30-year-old paralegal who we've agreed to keep anonymous, was on her way to work when a man behind her on an escalator lifted her skirt and took a picture. 

A concerned stranger, also riding behind her, saw the man and screamed. The creep ran away. But, the truly infuriating part of the story comes next: When she did what countless subway posters urge us to do and reported it, the NYPD joked around rather than jumping into action, according to her report, and the experience left her enraged. 

According to the blog she set up to document her experience, the officers seemed to have no idea how to respond. “That’s the perils of riding public transportation," one cop joked. They told her they'd have no way of finding the guy and that the cameras in the station weren't running.

She couldn't accompany them back to the station because the train wasn't running, but the officers did file a report sometime later — which she only learned when she ran into one of the officers the next day. 

We spoke to the Detective Brian Sessa at the NYPD who confirmed that a complaint had been filed, saying that proper protocol had been followed. "They took a complaint report, and a case is opened up." Sessa also told us that an up-skirt picture is a lesser crime than the woman reported. "She was not sexually assaulted," he said. “Someone lifted up her skirt and took pictures of her. That’s unlawful surveillance." 

The woman's post about the incident went viral. We reached out to her to ask how it all went down and what she wished had happened instead. 

The following interview has been edited and condensed, and we're respecting her wish to remain private. 

What happened that day?
"I had just taken the A train downtown and was exiting the Fulton Street stop, riding the escalator near the Fulton and William Street exit. I was heading to work, running late, actually. 

"A woman behind me screamed 'What are you doing!?' I turned, and there was a man running, down the up escalator, and I realized she was talking about me; they told me the man had lifted my skirt to take a picture.

"After,  I went through a series of emotions and feelings — starting with blaming myself for not being aware or alert, not chasing after him, not getting a picture of him, reacting so slowly. Then I moved on to realizing how egregious of a violation it was and feeling panicked about him having the picture. Was he sending it to other perverts or posting it online? I also felt humiliated and just completely exposed — either he was going to do creepy gross sexual things with my picture, or was planning on laughing at and humiliating me."
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You reported it to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the agency that oversees New York's Subway. What was their response? 
"The woman who had been standing behind me was the first to get to the booth and alert the MTA worker. The MTA worker was aware of the facts and we gave her a description of the man. She called the police." 

It took about 15 minutes for three officers to show up after the complaint was made. What happened next?
"They were nice guys, but I felt like they were really at a loss as to what to do. They were joking around with us — trying to make us feel better — but it actually just showed how insensitive they were, how they didn’t comprehend how egregious the violation was. I felt they were embarrassed that there was so much waiting, and a total lack of protocol for how to deal with something like this. It was like they felt sheepish at their futility and could only deal with us by joking."

What do you think the police could have done better? 
"I wish they had responded faster and canvassed the platform on the way to meeting us. They were coming from the other side of the station and had been given a description of the perpetrator. I wish they had a protocol in place and were sensitive to me and my witnesses’ feelings. I wish that they had an alternative way to get to the station so I could have filed a report and left with it. I wish they had put up posters in the subway stop about this pervert. I wish that they had contacted me to give me my report number — so far I haven’t heard from them. Basically, I wish I had experienced some professionalism and competency."

Has the incident changed the route you take to work?
"I considered not taking the same route but forced myself to do it and not let the actions of some pervert change my life. I was on very high alert when I got to Fulton Street and felt like my head was going to fall off because I was looking all around me in fear of seeing the guy. I also simultaneously hoped to see him so that I could try again to get him caught."

What do you plan to do next?

"I’m waiting to hear from the NYPD — the ball is in their court. Up until now, I’ve done everything I can to regain control of the situation and provide information to them and I am waiting to see if they will have the proper response. I anticipate having to file a complaint — either to the CCRB, the Transit Authority, or both. Right now, I’m giving them some time to fix the situation and to make a proactive effort in catching this guy."
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