Groping on the Paris metro

Jun 3rd, 2008, 03:05 PM
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If your daughter had on shoes with any kind of heel, she could have put her heel on his toes, and put her full weight on her heel with a good twist.

Several years ago, one of the professionals in the office was a tall, well educated woman in her early thirties. One of the hot shots from the home office came to our branch rather frequently to make a general nuisance of himself.

One day he caressed our tall colleague in a place she considered off limits. She had on spiked heels and used them to full advantage on his toes. While touching the wall for support, she made a nice 180 degree pivot.

I laughed and asked, "Hey Herbie, did that hurt any?"

We think Herbie got the message, but we are not really sure.
brookwood is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 03:18 PM
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In the same circumstances I'd advise my daughter to respond with a good dose of humiliation rather than a 'shock and awe' counter attack which might have unintended consequences.
farrermog is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 03:26 PM
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There's actually a french word for this guy. She could have yelled, "Frotteur!" But any kind of yelling would have been a good idea.
ellenem is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 03:57 PM
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WillTravel wrote: "I don't like the responses that refer to a lack of character."

I don't see anybody suggesting a lack of character, but I wonder if my response is one of those you don't like.

It is very easy for people to know what to do, and to be brave and resourceful, when sitting at home at their keyboards. Many people manage it in difficult situations, but there are many who are so surprised or disturbed by events that the don't. I know many women who have not managed to cope well with men who have imposed themselves on them -- and that is just those who have told me about such things. I am sure that many of those who have participated in this discussion could also tell us of occasions when their response to a difficult situation was less good than they would have liked it to be.

normal1983 has told us that her daughter is 20, "but really quite young". I interpret that as meaning that she has not got a brassy self-confidence, and I picture somebody quiet and reserved. Of course, I might be quite wrong. But if she is as I picture her, then I affirm very strongly that she has every right to be like that, and that there is no fault in being like that. I know some people find it difficult to make a fuss even when it is warranted, but I hope that they learn to do so. And I also know that it is actually quite a big step for some people to make.

Like farrermog, I am not sure if a physical response is a good thing. For it to be the best option, one needs to be accomplished in some technique and, much more important, sufficiently experienced to read a situation and know if it is the appropriate response. You don't learn that from reading posts on a forum like this. On the other hand, it is almost invariably worthwhile to seek the help of people around you by raising your voice and drawing attention to your predicament.

I am sure normal1983's daughter knows that there are far more good people than bad ones; she might need to remind herself of that from time to time.
Padraig is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:00 PM
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So if she yells "frotteur" then she is letting everyone know that there is a man assaulting her? Or is this meant to embarrass the person groping her? Would that help or hurt her in this circumstance? I wonder what the other passengers would do if she were to yell this out?

I looked up the link on wikipedia and it was very informative. I had no idea that this sort of thing happened.
normal1983 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:12 PM
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Posts: 333 are correct in stating that she is quiet and shy. She can be assertive in certain situations where she is comfortable but in the situation in Paris she is totally out of her element. She doesn't speak the language and she is unfamiliar with big cities, doesn't know about subways and doesn't have street smarts.

She was totally unprepared for this type of behavior having never experienced anything like it before. She is an amazing young woman and I wish she didn't have to experience this. It most definitely is tainting her opinion of French men although I know it isn't unique to the French.

I don't know that I as a fifty year old woman would have known what to do either. We always look back and can say I wish I had done this or that but in the immediate situation it is sometimes difficult to react as you would like.
normal1983 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:21 PM
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I would tell her it's never, ever, "too crowded" to get away IMMEDIATELY. It's easy enough to get others between yourself and someone unpleasant.

Agree with elbow and yelling, in any language.

She needs to know when NOT to be timid and "polite".

If she had merely pointed, I think others would have at least stepped in the way.
djkbooks is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:29 PM
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One of the reasons I wrote my previous post was to suggest to normal1983 (and, through her, I hope, to her daughter) that even though her experience was disturbing, she did not necessarily cope worse than many other women in similar situations. And now that she has had her bad experience, she might have a better idea what to do if a similar situation arises again. I don't mean necessarily in the Paris Metro: it could happen in a crowded elevator in her home town.
Padraig is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:33 PM
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Groping occurs in all cities on buses and trains that are crowded. What the groper is counting on is just what your daughter did - nothing.

You have several choices.

1 - Turn and say loudly stop! or NO! or even police! (he would understand any of those).

2 -Lean back and give him the elbow - or stamp back on one of his feet (esp useful is you're wearing high heels).

3 - Move to another part of the car.

This has happened to me 4 or 5 times in riding the subway - for more than 20 years. I try to judge the person. If he looks normal I say something - loudly - like "keep your hand to yourself". If he continues (happened once) I stamped on his foot. He muttered at me - but backed away and got off at the next stop.

If he looks like a nut job I would move to another part of the car - or would get off if he tried to follow.

But, never do nothing - it just encourages them.

nytraveler is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 04:36 PM
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I actually heard of the term "frotteur" from a book years ago, I think called "They Have a Word for It." It discussed interesting words from languages foreign to English that did not really exist in English. Even knowing the word, I doubt that I could have come up with it if confronted by the same situation as this young woman. But I would be inclined to yell, "Hey, stop!" And try with all my might to shove my way through the packed people.

This brings to mind my own subway experience of many years ago. As New Yorker I ride the subways frequently. One day I was riding standing near the doors in the center of the car. Two other women were near me, grasping the same support pole as we rode. The train stopped, a man got up from a seat, stepped out the door, turned, and exposed himself to us. We all stood, staring, mouths agape, frozen. Finally we all laughed. Suddenly the man ran away and then one of the woman leaned out the door and yelled after him, "I've seen better!"

My experience cannot begin to compare with the violation experienced by this young woman. However, as others have mentioned, our inability to react to the situation does speak to how people in general deal with surprising and shocking situations.

By the way, after that fellow ran away, the woman who yelled commented to us, "You just can't let them get away with that."
ellenem is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 05:55 PM
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This reminds me of a police officer who gave our office a class on personal security. One thing I will never forget is that he said women have been ingrained to be 'nice' and not offend anyone, so for example, we will stay on an elevator with a stranger rather than give 'offense' by getting off at the next stop.

This conditioning works against us in just such a situation as your daughter experienced.

Even for an unwanted 'hug', Miss Manners advises to shriek with surprise!
Travelnut is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 06:09 PM
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I'm sorry this happened to your daughter, after all that suitcase saga.

In this situation, I would probably suggest her just yell out something in English like "Stop! You Pervert!" rather than trying something in French. The fact that she doesn't know the language, it'll be difficult for her to recall any French words when she's in such high-stress situation. Any kind of loud yelling and commotion is enough to attract others attention which should deter the man from further action.

Anyway, I hope the rest of her Paris stay gets better.
yk is offline  
Jun 4th, 2008, 03:35 AM
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Thank you YK. Hopefully, today brings her a fresh new start and she can start enjoying her time in Paris. There was so much anticipation and excitement for this trip that the first few days with lost suitcase and perverts on subways just burst her bubble.

I'm sure as she gets more comfortable in her surroundings she will begin to enjoy herself more. It's 1:30p.m. in Paris now and I've not heard anything from her today so I expect all is going much better.

She is definitely learning a few life lessons during this journey!
normal1983 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 07:27 PM
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I had that happen to me when I was 15 years old, and riding on a bus in Rome. I had a lot of men come on to me that summer, and I learned to run, scream, wear a fake wedding ring, and curse at them in English & Italian. Once, when I was really mad at a guy who asked me how much I "cost", I ended up slapping him on the face! I ran into a nearby church to take cover, and stayed for about 15 minutes, just to make sure he was gone!!

It's amazing how bold certain foreign men can be. They just have no shame when hitting on & harassing women. It's like it's their right to be able to touch any woman they want, and say anything they want. I started out all sweet & innocent that year (1983!), and have developed into a very street smart woman, who doesn't take ANY "merde"!!
amp322 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 09:57 PM
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I am sorry that happened to your daughter, but almost everyone has had something similar happen in their life times, it may be the boyfriend who goes to far too fast and has to be pushed off, or the quick bottom pinch in a crowd, or the hoots and hollers a girl can encounter when they walk by a construction site.
I am not judging your daughter as a bad person, she is young and just doesn't have experience, , but she must learn to stand up for herself someday, unfortunately she is getting a very strong first lesson , and in a foriegn place. Do not kid yourself, or let her kid herself, this sort of treatment could and does happen anywhere, INCLUDING your little town. Oh, not on a metro, but being treated disrespectfully knows no borders, and everyone in a small US town is not a good old fatherly type, ( if you know what I mean)

Tell her to yell, tell her to scowl. She is in a big city , and she must shed or cover her sweet innocent nature or she may be taken advantage of in other ways. Language is not an issue.

When I was 23 someone tried to put their hand in my purse as we walked along a sidewalk, I all of a sudden sensed the man was too close to me, and then saw my purse open, I screamed, in english and I swung at him( wanged him with my arm in a push away motion) , luckily 2 girlfriends were walking about 15 feet behind me and ran up when I screamed, he took one look at the scene he caused( Ok, I caused,LOL) and he ran like heck. Not as scary as your poor girls experience, but I am glad I did not react by being passive.
Creeps like to do things quietly, don't let them.

Give your daughter permission to scream and yell, tell her to avoid eyecontact with men in general( even nice men can take that as encouragement and it does not mean they are being perverts) , but if she does sense something wrong( as in creepy attention, not just boys being flirty) then stare at them menacingly, like " I see you creep and I already hate you" look, LOL

Of course it doesn't hurt to not be alone, but realistically no one can be with her all the time, its not healthy.

PS If it was my daughter(mine is only 12) I would be sick about it too, we so want to be " momma bears" and protect our young forever , so I understand you must feel really sick about whole thing.
bozama is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 11:08 PM
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This, and the previous post on 'Lost Luggage' is a bit like 'The Perils of Pauline'. A 20 year old has to learn to deal with issues by herself, and not keep running to Mummy.
adeben is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 11:22 PM
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The most common way to stop it is to yell "Stop!" (or "Arrêtez!" if you know any French). Everybody around will immediately look at the person you are talking to and he will stop.

However, there are sometimes some women who imagine incidents that didn't happen. I remember on one very crowded day (it might have been a strike day), everybody was jamming on to the train as best as possible, including a frumpy woman with sharp elbows, followed by a very dignified African gentleman who was pushed up against her through no fault of his own, even though she was trying to make extra personal space for herself with her elbow weapons.

She suddenly barked at the African man, "Stop trying to take advantage of me!"

He calmly looked her up and down and replied, after a pause. "But Madame. Take advantage of what?" The entire car laughed.
kerouac is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 11:49 PM
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Dear normal,

I'm not shy at all, have 5 brothers, have seen/heard a lot. This happened to me more than once on crowded NYC subways when I was younger (I don't take the subway anymore). First time, I didn't realize what was happening until it had already happened! After that I learned the elbow jab.

Those that think she could have moved to avoid the fondling have never been on a really crowded subway!

And, I really don't like when Fodorite's say things like "a 20 year old has to learn to deal with issues by herself, and not keep running to Mummy." I don't think your daughter "ran" to you. She had a bad experience and told you. So what. Isn't that what family is for? I think you must have a good relationship with her so that she felt she could share this and ask your advice. If my girls don't feel they can call me when something weird happens it would make me feel sad.

I agree a self-defense course is a very good idea. I went to a women's college and the first week of school a policewoman came to our dorm and taught us some basics. I still remember and use much of what I learned. Many martial arts studios offer such courses esp. for young women.

Part of these SD classes is just recognizing when a situation is "off" and protecting yourself in simple ways such as getting off an elevator early, or never walking home from a bar alone, etc. Some of it is common sense, just young women aren't so aware of these things all the time and the fact that they are targets.

Unfortunately, if your daughter plans to continue to explore the world outside your sheltered community, other situations will likely arise. The self defense course will empower her to be able to handle fondling weirdos, date rape, muggings, etc should she have to.

Sorry for the worries today, but these experiences are preparing her for the world and she will learn and grow from them, and be better prepared next time.
gruezi is offline  
Jun 6th, 2008, 12:40 AM
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had to add for the doubters or those who think this is "rare" or limited to foreign cities...

in NYC sometimes men will press a certain erect part of their anatomy on you in a crowded subway...

gruezi is offline  
Jun 6th, 2008, 03:04 AM
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"However, there are sometimes some women who imagine incidents that didn't happen. I remember on one very crowded day (it might have been a strike day), everybody was jamming on to the train as best as possible, including a frumpy woman...."

Before you try and convict the woman for false witness as fast as she tried and convicted her subway 'companion'........

It's true that people can misunderstand what is happening or has happened, or at least one party to the encounter maintains that it was a misunderstanding. It becomes a 'he said, she said' situation - his word against hers. Given this, it is always reasonable for the woman to appeal for help if she is alarmed - the risk of being wrong to ask for help is outweighed by the risk of doing nothing when she is right. It might not, on the other hand, be appropriate (let alone possible/probable, as Padraig points out) to respond violently.

However, that the woman in your anecdote was, in your opinion, 'frumpy' proves nothing at all. Maybe nothing happened. Maybe something unintentional happened (as perhaps you know, erections aren't necessarily a sign of sexual desire or aggression.) And then there's a third possibility.

The train was very crowded. Just how much of the situation were you as onlooker able to understand, any better than the parties involved?

And second: sexual offenses do happen even to women you think 'don't count' as targets of sexual crimes. A sixty year old woman who was raped by a twenty year old hitchhiker thought as you did that she wouldn't be a target: "I thought he looked like my grandson", was her response to why she had picked him up.

People laugh, by the way, at all kinds of testimony. Sometimes they laugh at the testimony of 'frumpy women'. Sometimes they laugh at the testimony of black men. Either way, doesn't automatically mean that the testimony in question is false.
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