Looking back, there are a million things I wish I could have said or done, but I froze. At the time, all I could muster was turning around, looking the man in the face, and saying, "Excuse me.” Not in an assertive "EXCUSE me?!” type of way, but in the timid, apologetic way you’d say it if you accidentally bumped into someone. The man, who had his red T-shirt pulled up over his nose, like a child who had just smelled something gross on a school bus, said “Sorry,” and then moved to the back of the train car. My friend and I were getting off at the next stop anyway, so we did, and proceeded to have a lovely sushi dinner where, despite numerous opportunities, I never told her about the incident.
The following day, I couldn’t think about anything else. More than feeling violated, I felt ashamed, and guilty for not taking more action and reporting the incident right away. I pictured him doing the same thing to other women, and felt as though I would be personally responsible. I have always been an outspoken feminist, in both my personal and professional life, and yet in this situation, I just froze. I felt as if I had let the team down.
Two nights later, after much anxiety and guilt, I met up with the same friend. Although I knew she would be nothing but supportive, I didn’t want her to feel in guilty or responsible in any way since she had been there, and didn’t know what had occurred.