The creep on the bus looks just like us

Content Warning: This post contains descriptions of sexual harassment and assault.

Stop sign.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was 17, a middle-aged man in a faded green polo shirt and blue jeans exposed his erect genitalia to me and groped my buttocks.

We were in a bookstore at the train station. I had seen this man on the bus earlier that morning. We had made incidental eye contact and he’d smiled at me and I probably smiled back. Like when I pass someone in the street or in the corridor at work. It’s something I just do without really thinking about it — and it sure as hell doesn’t mean “whip out your wang”.

But according to some well-meaning people I spoke to afterwards, I should have thought about it. I shouldn’t have smiled. I shouldn’t have been alone. I should have screamed or made a scene — instead of freezing and trying to pretend I hadn’t noticed.

But staying silent or laughing it off tends to be my default response to someone making me uncomfortable. I guess it feels like the safer option. Especially when you don’t really know what someone might be capable of.

And I don’t think there’s a perfect way to react to a WTF situation like that, but humans are pretty good at prescribing how others should behave. I know I’m guilty of it sometimes.

The man in the green polo looked like a perfectly normal person until I caught him staring a little too long over the top of a bookshelf. And I might have convinced myself I was just imagining it until he came over and pulled out his dong whilst asking me if I liked to read.

He probably looks and acts like a decent person most of the time in his everyday life. Creeps don’t wear signs telling you they’re creeps. Sometimes — I dare say, most of the time — the bad guys look just like everyone else.

I had a long internal debate about whether or not to publish this post.

But I claim to be a writer so… this is me writing a story. This one just happens to be non-fiction.

7 Replies to “The creep on the bus looks just like us”

  1. Thank you for talking about this. People always have an idea of what assaulters look like but like you said they look just like regular people until they do something. It doesn’t matter how “normal” they look or how “nice” everyone thinks they are.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m sorry this happened to you, and am thankful you are sharing this story.
    It’s important that people who’ve experienced similar hear they are not alone, and feel they can also tell their stories.

    It’s also important that people who’ve never experienced such things, and people like me, who are in the category of ‘normal looking middle aged guy on the bus’ know that these things have happened. In that way we can recognize it is people who look like us that perpetrate these crimes; and by recognizing that, we can help by raising our voices against these behaviours. The more these individual perpetrators realize that the people they most identify with don’t accept that behaviour, the more likely they’ll not exhibit said behaviour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks NKP. There are people much stronger and braver than I am in this space, fighting for justice and for marginalised voices to be heard. But if my stories can help someone a little then I’m glad I can share them.

      Liked by 1 person

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