How often does the average woman face inappropriate touching or sexual harassment on transit?
A lot more than you’d think, according to Melissa Bedford, the woman behind the @GropedGirl Twitter account.
She’s been using the account to document every time she’s assaulted or harassed and says the project has surprised even her.
LISTEN: @GropedGirl shares her story of transit harassment
Wondering how often a female gets groped, harassed, or inappropriately touched? Here is a record of my personal experience, as it happens.— Groped Girl (@GropedGirl) March 3, 2017
Bedford says she got the idea when she was out for dinner with friends and shared a story about being touched on the SkyTrain – only to have every other woman at the table share a similar story.
“And the men at the table seemed really surprised at how often this was happening, and just in the last six months I got this idea, and I was talking to more men about it, and they again seemed to have no idea it was happening so often, or that there was actually touching involved.”
She says she created the account to try and show more people what’s really happening for many women on transit.
“Just so men can basically look at it and see this is how often this happens to the average woman. Because they just live their lives without all this stuff, so they don’t really think about it.”
She adds it happens so often to many women that they themselves are desensitized to it – noting she only realized the scale of it when she started tracking each incident.
1/3 The incident that inspired this twitter account: Last month I was sitting on the inside row of seats on a 75% full bus.— Groped Girl (@GropedGirl) March 12, 2017
2/3 A man walked down the aisle to the back of the bus, passing me. He had enough room in the aisle, but walked very close to me.— Groped Girl (@GropedGirl) March 12, 2017
3/3 As he passed me, he rubbed his penis across my arm (through his pants). Side to side, contouring my arm’s shape. I felt every detail.— Groped Girl (@GropedGirl) March 12, 2017
So what kind of things is she experiencing?
Bedford says on a day to day basis they’re usually little things.
“Like, you’re on a packed train during rush hour maybe, and all of a sudden you find somebody pressing their whole body up against you, which sounds normal because it’s a packed train. But you look over and they have lots of room.”
Often she says she’ll move away, only to have men move to follow her – over and over again.
“I’ve even seen them twist, like they’re far away from where they’re holding on to, so they’re in a little weird position… because they’re basically trying to chase you so they can still touch you.”
Bedford says it happens so frequently, she rarely reports it or pushes the emergency strip on the train.
“And it’s so often that if I were to constantly be reporting this, I would never get to work,” she says.
“[And] people around you might not support you, might not believe you, they might think that you’re wrong – it’s just a packed train, it was an accident.”
But Bedford says in her experience, they clearly haven’t been accidents. She chalks it up to men thinking they can get away with it, or women not realizing what’s happening.
“I’ll tell you, if I’m touching someone’s butt on a packed train, I move. And there’s never been a time when I couldn’t just pivot my body or move my hand up, or just move my hips a few inches.”
She says since she started the project people have been sharing their own experiences with her online, much of it uncomfortable.
“Someone was telling me how they were being sketched the other day.”