Groper on the train

You really do see allsorts on the public transport here in Berlin – the teeth suckers, the foghorn nose-blowers, the people who talk to themselves, the people who sing to themselves, the people who pee into a bottle when the train stops for no apparent reason, and the people you’re convinced you can still smell in your clothes and hair a week later. All of this I can cope with but, this week, I had the misfortune of bumping into the lowest of the low – the groper.

My little train station
My little train station

I was on my way to my afternoon lesson with my Costa Rican student, where I usually spend the guts of 90 minutes saying, “WHAT?” It was just after 1pm and a beautiful, sunny day. I had achieved the most coveted of all train manoeuvres and bagged four seats to myself. After a couple of stations, however, a man got on and sat next to me.

Apart from a quick “tsk” of annoyance that he had chosen to sit next to me in a half-empty carriage, I didn’t pay him any attention. He did the typical “man thing” of spreading his legs as wide as they could possibly go and placing his hands on his knees. Scheiße, his hand was brushing my knee.

I moved over a bit, but I could still feel his hand, so I moved over even further. I ventured a look at him in the glass panel in front of me and saw that his face was glistening with sweat. Willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he was just an inconsiderate space-invader, I squashed myself up against the window. Nope, I could still feel his hand. This definitely wasn’t right. I looked down and saw that he had extended two fingers and was touching my knee with them.

My poor violated knees.
My poor violated knees.

After a very brief, incredulous moment during which I processed that this was actually happening to me in broad daylight, I lost it.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, YOU FUCKING WEIRDO?! GET YOUR FUCKING HAND OFF ME!”

Yes, there was a lot of swearing and I spoke roared in English but, really, it was simply a knee-jerk (pardon the pun) reaction. I was just happy to get words out in any language. He got up quickly and walked to the opposite end of the carriage, getting off at the next station.

There is no handbook to tell you what to do in situations like this. Should I run after him? What then? Grab him? Hit him? Pin him down and get someone to call the police? But what if he turns violent? Maybe he has a knife? What if he gets his willy out?

NEIN to getting willies out on public transport.
NEIN to getting willies out on public transport.

The only other time something like this happened to me was while I was living in Lyon. That time, I ended up with a knife held to my throat for telling a handsy Algerian something rather rude he could do to his mother’s posterior. I wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.

And so I did nothing. Yes, I got him away from me but I probably only drove him onto another train where he’d pull the same act on some other unsuspecting woman. I feel useless. I’m frustrated that I was put in this position and that I did nothing to stop him from doing the same thing in the future.

When I saw this man on Thursday afternoon on the S25, he was wearing blue jeans and a navy jacket. He has dark slicked down hair and wide, high cheekbones. I only saw him in the glass reflection so I can’t give a better description than that, unfortunately. However, someone out there knows who this sweaty pervert is and I would kindly ask you to get him some help before he runs into me again.

The saddest thing is that this seems to be so common. Nobody was particularly surprised or outraged that I was groped. I would go so far as to say that it’s almost expected that this will happen to a woman at some point in her life; I have very few friends that haven’t had something similar happen to them. Do men ever have to deal with this crap? I’m really interested to find out.

If nothing else, at least I’ve added one more word to my ever-expanding German vocabulary – ein Grabscher, a groper. Pretty appropriate, wouldn’t you say? I just hope I don’t have cause to use it again.

 

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122 thoughts on “Groper on the train”

  1. Oh no, I’ve only just read this post.

    Sadly, it’s not an unusual experience for a woman. Any woman. In any city. And you did the best that you could do at that moment, by screaming at him. We always feel that we would act differently, but when you’re put on the spot, it’s a different kettle of fish.

    I’ve had filthy middle-aged German men press themselves against me in a crowded train. I’ve even had a man stop his car in the middle of Charlottenburg. In the day-time no less, and offer me more than a ride! I was shocked ‘cos I was at the bus-stop, wearing a sharp suit and laden down with books, files and a CD player! I can’t imagine what the fellow was thinking!

    I once went to a lesbian bar in Milan ‘cos I was travelling solo, and I wanted to go out for a few drinks and didn’t feel comfortable going to a “normal” bar on my own. Yet again, a middle-aged man wouldn’t leave me alone, kept trying to put his hand on my knee and pimping perfectly respectable girls minding their own business, to me. I couldn’t get rid of him so I told him that I had had a sex change and was transgendered. That shut him up!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So glad to have found this! I was groped by a pervert travelling to London on a commuter train and I squeezed myself up against the window, exactly as you described. Of course, apart from taking a good look at him, I did nothing. THEN, three months later the SAME pervert got on a train going in the opposite direction and did the same thing! So I did what you did and shouted at him in a packed train and he scarpered. I went to the police, I picked him out (anonymously from a distance) at the train station (the one he had got on at before groping me) the following week, and he was prosecuted!! Share in my victory, please, and well done you for tackling it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, what a great story! Well done you! That’s one more off the streets. What a coincidence that he chose you twice! Proved to be his downfall – asshole 🙂 Thanks for this, Shirley! Best, Linda.

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  2. oh I once walked out of a subway train. The guy who had been standing behind me, he walked right after me. And then he stretched out his hand and grabbed my ass. that was so nasty(((

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In some Islamic countries they have gender separated buses. Women must use the rear door, men the front door. No mixing allowed! The tram in Jerusalem reportedly has (sometimes) gender separated wagons.
    Could gender apartheid be a solution even in Western countries?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. These spots are at least 50% broader than the regular ones. 😉

        Back on topic:
        These occurrences aren’t characteristics of our modern unchaste world. In a Franconian pictorial booklet from 1799 are many lovely swearwords. One of them is “Diddlas- Badscher”, means “Tittleins- Grapscher” in Standard German 😮

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Having been to India, someone touching my knees is not the first thing I think of when I hear “groping.” The word “groping” conjures far more violating experiences in my mind….

    But it was still a violation. And good on you for calling him out for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I guess my guy was pretty tame in comparison to some of the other stories in the comments! I wasn’t sure what else to call him though – a knee-feeler?? Not quite as catchy!

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  5. What a nasty thing to happen to you. Well done on shouting at him, and standing your ground.

    Do you know the stupid phrase they use in India for this? “Eve-Teasing.” I hated that name, because it makes sexual harrassment sound like a light-hearted joke.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You do have very attractive knees, but that’s no excuse for anyone to set their fingers on them, uninvited. I think you did the right thing by yelling. You obviously scared the willy back into him, maybe even put him off groping for a time (we can only hope). In thinking back, I have to say I’m surprised that I’ve never been groped in public transit, not even in San Francisco when we piled onto the train during rush hour, crushed together like sardines (one time I was balancing on my toes because the crowd of commuters I was in the middle of had practically lifted me up).

    That isn’t to say that creepy things haven’t happened to me. I was “groped” at a religious cult meeting once when I was a teenager (yeah, one of those cults). The guy was young with raging hormones, trying to pick up any girl he could. At one meeting, when we were, ahem, standing and praying, he was up against the back of me, running his hands up and down my shoulders and pressing a bit too much. I just froze until prayers were over and then I made a mad dash to the other side of the room. (I know you could have a field day with this story.)

    It is depressing to read all these comments, all these stories about disgusting and frightening violations. Well, now I am remembering another episode. Living in SF, walking home from work, daytime, lonely side street. Guy approaching me makes smooching noises as I pass him. He might have grabbed his crotch too but I had my eyes directed straight ahead. I just kept walking. Another time, a car full of guys drove by me (again, I was walking) and one of them leaned out of the car window and screamed, “You bitch!” at me. It had to be me because there was no one else on the street at the time. I couldn’t understand why my mere presence seemed to set these men off, but that’s part of the problem. In both cases, I immediately wondered what I had done, which is part of the power game, that the victim blames herself, but I know I also want control. I didn’t want these things to happen again, but, really, all I was doing on both occasions was walking, minding my own business. I was probably pretty well covered up too since that part of SF tended to be chilly. No, what set these losers off was that I am female. That’s all. For some reason, their infantile minds can’t handle the sight of a lone female perfectly content without their attention. These guys are such losers, but their perception of women is really ingrained in society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sad but true. And like you, I wondered what I had done to attract him. Did I look like an easy target? Small and therefore probably easy to intimidate? Slutty in some way? (Unlikely as it’s December in Berlin and I was bundled up to my neck – apart from my knees haha!) Was it the flesh coloured tights?! Jesus, the things we do to ourselves. I was on a train going to my job. That is all. I wasn’t looking for attention from anyone and did nothing to warrant that treatment. Funny how the more you thought about it, the more you remembered. Sometimes it can even seem ‘harmless’ at the time but it never is. It’s abuse, plain and simple.

      And you’re right. Now I want to know all about your cult days. I really would have a field day with that 😉

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      1. “Small and therefore probably easy to intimidate? ” Boy, was he wrong about that! Sometime I will talk about my cult days, although it’s not too interesting. I didn’t live with the cult. Just went to meetings, and didn’t think of it as a cult at the time. It was a “Movement” and all about religion, so, you know, that’s supposed to make it okay …

        Liked by 1 person

  7. EWWWWWWW…really sorry you had to experience this….big drag. It only happened to me once – – in Italy…super crowded bus…..so lots of opportunity for my creep to touch me….like his whole body….i squirmed away…and somehow he was able to follow me. Anyway…best you let your creep go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, squirming thinking of it! Trains in Berlin (at least the times I’m on them!) are rarely that crowded so I’ve never experience that here. Seems to be VERY common though – enough for cities like NY and London to run campaigns about it. Horrible.

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  8. WordPress somehow swallowed my comment … posting this again and hope it works.

    Good on you, I think this was the perfect reaction. If he gets yelled at by every woman he tries to grope, he will probably think twice before doing it again … can’t imagine getting yelled at gets him excited. On the other hand, you never know … 😛

    This reminds of something I read in the newspaper last weekend: Just around the corner from where we live in Munich, some guy decided it was a good idea to air his wiener in front of two young girls on a quiet public square. He whistled at them and immediately started to — well, pump away after he had got their attention. Apparently, he didn’t have much experience with generation Facebook: The girls immediately drew their smartphone from their bags and took a pretty damning picture of him. At that point, he ran away (apparently he was not THAT much of an exhibitionist, after all). The girls showed the picture at the nearest police station and he was arrested three hours later.

    Not that it would have helped in your case, of course, but should you have the misfortune to be molested again, Lyon style, it might be an option. Long live modern technology!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, no, it came through! It just went into moderation as (I think?) it’s your first time commenting.

      Oh, I love that story! Obviously not great that it happened in the first place, but brilliant that they nabbed the dirty bastard!

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          1. I’m right there with them but there is a time and place to stop pretending that one is listening to something via his/her earbuds and to acknowledge that one knows precisely what is going on. Step up people!

            Liked by 1 person

  9. The good part of the incident is that you yelled at him. Five stars to you. Back in the day (and keep in mind that I’m 603 years old) we would have politely pretended it wasn’t happening and at most have gotten up and moved away–hoping he wouldn’t follow. So you didn’t obliterate him, which is a pity but probably not a realistic goal. But the fact is that you probably did humiliate him. And you stood up for yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did 🙂 I guess you just do the first thing that pops into your head in those situations – you can’t really tell how you’ll react. There was no way I was moving though – I was there first 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Nasty. Didn’t anyone react when you yelled at him? It’s awful how people pretend nothing is happening and look the other way – a student was raped on a train in Paris a couple of years ago, whilst other occupants in the carriage pretended that they hadn’t noticed.
    Never got groped (unless you count the pickpocket who stroked my bum on the Metro platform – I turned around to slap him and my sensible little sister grabbed my hand and probably stopped me getting a knife in the ribs). I have been the victim of a weirdo who stopped beside my car when I parked one night, pulled his jeans down leant against the passenger window and proceeded to show my 2-year-old what he could do with his anatomy. Thankfully,1) Bigfoot was asleep, and 2) MM hit the horn and was rewarded with the sight of him running off with his kicks around his knees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nope, nobody reacted. It was the same on the train in France even though that was pretty damn obvious! It is horrible that nobody steps in but I guess everyone is afraid of being knifed or worse. You do have to think about it these days unfortunately. I learned my lesson 😉
      And ha ha at the image of him running away with his trousers around his knees! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yup. Being macho can be a dangerous business in France. As you have pointed out for your experience in Lyon, baddies have weapons (screwdrivers and Stanley knives are hot favourites, as are pen knives. I think that if you can’t run, a finger in each eye delivered with a knee in the “family jewels” is the most easily attainable and efficient defence method.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. You wondered if this also happens to men so I had to tell you my story.
    About a year ago me and my wife Resa along with another couple were in a pub in a popular town in Dublin. Its a retro 80’s music venue with a small dance floor. After a few drinks we were all up giving it Spandau Ballet on the dance floor when a younger woman groped me a number of times but instead of taking offence I was quite flattered. So as I swaggered my way back to our table I was boasting to my wife and the other people that I had been groped by a younger woman and I was wearing this like a badge of honour. My wife pointed behind me saying “Is that her”? I turned around to see the young woman lying face down on the floor too drunk to pick herself up. Ha Ha I laughed so much. Maybe she wasn’t groping but just trying to hold herself up. My wife got mileage out of that for a long time,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! I shouldn’t laugh but that is very funny! Maybe my guy was worried he was going to fall out of his seat so he was clinging to my knee for protection. Then again, probably not 😉
      Did you help her up in the end?

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  12. To put this indecency in to the category “humour” testifies to real wittiness. 🙂
    Maybe he was a desperate Latvian who searched for a little bit of Anglo-Saxon cheerfulness? A happy fake smile ad small talk had filled his Nordic heart with warmth!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ugh! I feel really sorry for you! Hate this kind of perverts!
    But answering to your question about men being groped – yes, regularly. It seems that ladies don’t even view it as groping. They often touch hand muscles, pecs and shoulders while having a conversation. Most brave or drunk of them don’t deny themselves a pleasure of grabbing a knee or slapping a butt. It happens less often, but also regularly. Does it cause a disgust or anger? Never! Just a smile. Them ladies, you know… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, if a man doesn’t look ugly, he gets touched, groped and even pinched by complete strangers regularly. I never say a word when some old lady on street grabs my breast while asking for directions, or time, or whatever. I also never get angry because some drunk teenage girl slaps my butt to get some credit in eyes of her friends. I believe that it’s totally acceptable thing for women. Speaking about them male wankers… Well, in civilized countries they get castrated without any anesthesia and force-fed their genitals afterwards. Zero-tolerance! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Huh, I don’t really think that’s acceptable behaviour for women either! Touching a friend on the arm, etc, while speaking to them is OK for either sex, but total strangers and horny old ladies? NEIN!

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          1. That’s OK if done to grown single man. 🙂 It causes completely no harm, just a smile. There is a difference between reasons. Women do those things just to show some sympathy. Meanwhile men are groping women because humiliating women turns them on and helps to get off. Those things are incomparable.

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  14. I think you dealt with the f****** just right. And I will now inject some laughter into the comments by observing that your description of him sounds just like Ciarán Hinds 🙂 If any more Ciarán-y men grab your knee on public transport, please don’t tell me because it’s too much cognitive dissonance.

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  15. I think shouting at c****s like this is probably the best thing you can do in this situation – with any luck, it might make him think twice about doing it again. I’m from London, and I don’t have a single girlfriend – not one – who hasn’t experienced something like this on the tube – men doing groping, or rubbing, or getting their bits out. It’s bloody horrendous. And I just don’t understand it. Do these men get up in the morning and think, ah yes, today I fancy getting my teeny weeny cock out on the underground?

    It’s happened to me a couple of times, in Paris too, which was the only time I managed to shout at the c***, but it happened most recently in London a few years ago, when I was alone in a carriage early evening, and a (totally normal-looking, young) guy got on and sat a bit further down from me and stared at me whilst he had a wank inside his tracksuit bottoms. I had no idea what to do so I got up and waited by the doors then got off at the next station, which was virtually empty, and he got off as well and walked past me, still looking at me, wiping his hands on his trousers. You’re right, it makes you feel useless and dirty and then later really, really angry, which is so f*cked up, because it’s not in the least bit our fault. Obviously.

    I hope you’re not still feeling shit about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh god, that sounds like a really scary experience. And it’s so typical that in such a crowded city, the one time something like this happens, the place is deserted! I really can’t get over how many people are saying they’ve had the same thing happen to them, though mine is mild (not the knife one!) in comparison to some of the stories. So disgusting. And yes, really, what are they thinking!? Stay at home and watch a bloody porno, wank away to your heart’s content but leave us commuting women alone!

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  16. My girlfriend had a similar experience in a tube station a couple of years ago, it’s disgusting and it stayed on my mind a few days let alone hers. You did well to scare him off.

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        1. Ha ha, I’m pretty settled right now I think 🙂 I was in Lyon for a year during university. I loved it but it was dangerous as hell! Um, then the US for a short time on a J1 visa, Oz for a year, NZ for a year, Poland for a year, Latvia for four years, and now Germany 🙂 Phew – I need a lie-down 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            1. I was in England for a few summer schools – Ely for two summers, and Rugby for 2, but it was only for a month or so so I don’t really count it as “living” there! French, a little Spanish, Bad English in Oz and NZ, around 5 words in Polish, some Latvian and now German 😉

              Liked by 1 person

  17. Can’t bring myself to ‘like’ this post, because I feel incredibly angry reading it. You’re right, Linda, many women will experience something like this at some point. Too many.

    I worked with a woman who, while riding a super crowded subway, felt bodies up against hers (not uncommon), but then a warm sensation on her lower leg. Only after she exited the train did she see semen on her stocking. This guy had jerked off on her leg in the middle of a crowded train of business people riding the train to work. Unbelievable. Shudder.

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    1. Oh, yes, I remember reading this one at the time. Horrible experience. Seems like pretty much everyone commenting has had something similar happen to them or knows someone who has. It’s worse than I thought 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Sigh…this is a regular occurrence here. During a crowded morning commute, a friend of mine kept thinking that the guy behind her was poking her with his elbow… except it was too low to be his elbow.

    The MTA now has an anti-groping campaign: “A crowded subway is no excuse for an improper touch.”

    Good for your for reporting it!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Saw something similar here, with a fella who looked pretty dangerous. I was all ready to call the police, but the girl got rid of him sharpish and said there was no need. When I spoke to my missus about it, she too was unsurprised. Very sad. 😢

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    1. Ha, thanks! Still feel like it wasn’t enough but I guess writing a post about it is something. Shared it on Free Advice Berlin and have almost 500 hits now. Hopefully the next woman won’t be such a deer in the headlights…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, Lyon was pretty hardcore. Don’t think we went a week without something like that happening. Lots of unwanted willy sightings. Only one knife though. ‘Va enculer ta mère’ is a French expression you probably don’t want to learn – it can get you in trouble 😉

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  20. Well, you do have nice knees! Joking aside, I would have clocked the fucker and ran. I think. It’s impossible to know what you would do in such a situation. Suffice it to know that it is not your responsibility to save everyone else from this guy. You’ve done your bit. Firstly, you got yourself out of harm’s way. You took note of dates, times, stations etc. and have now shared this information. You could have ended up hurt or, more frustratingly, explaining what happened to a policeman who can’t see the harm in someone touching your leg with an outstretched finger. (Now, THAT guy, I would definitely clock.) Be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will 🙂 Yeah, I guess there was only so much I could do. I’m 5 foot 1 and he was a big guy. Pinning him down like a hero was a nice idea but I think a bit impractical! And the thoughts of having to try to explain all of that to the police – in German… wow.

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  21. Linda this is terrible. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I was recently at a party and ended up also roaring at my friend’s boyfriend who didn’t believe this really happened with the frequency it does. It had happened to each of the three women – myself and his girlfriend included – who were talking to him at the time. Far too common. I wish I had found my voice when it happened to me. Not on. Hope you’re all right X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fine 🙂 I have great bouncebackability 😉 Just kind of mad at myself for being a bit useless at the time. But I suppose I was in shock. And yes, it is SO common. People need to realise that this is NOT normal and women should NOT have to put up with this bullshit. Thanks so much for this comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I completely understand your sense of shock. I was on a packed tube from Oxford Circus which is a really busy shopping area. I couldn’t even breathe – I was so shocked that it was happening in front of so many other people and no one noticed. God help the man if he ever crosses paths with me again!X

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        1. Ha, same! I’d definitely recognise him if I saw him again and this time, I won’t hesitate! Yeah, there were a couple of women sitting opposite me but they didn’t notice either. So upsetting when it happens and you have nobody there! Then I had to go to my lesson and act “normal”…

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    1. Ha, no, don’t be afraid! Berlin is really safe most of the time but shit like this happens everywhere I guess. You should be afraid of going to Lyon 😉 If I’d had a euro for every time someone whipped his willy out in public, I’d be a very rich woman 😉

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        1. Ha ha! Half a dozen is far too many in my opinion! I had one guy follow me on his bike one night. He’d go behind a pillar, then jump out, wank at me a bit, get back on his bike, go behind the next pillar, jump out, etc. I christened him “Serial Wanker” 😉

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Ha, there will not 😉 I’ve been here for almost a year and a half and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened! It will probably be the last – I hope so anyway!

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            2. Another guy got out of his car with his little willy in his hand while I was sitting at a bus stop. I started keying his car and he drove off pretty quickly 😉 “Non! Ma voiture! Ma voiture!” Heh heh 😉

              Liked by 1 person

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