A man exposed himself to me while I was walking to the NoMa Metro station this morning. It was disgusting and shocking, but mostly, it was fucking infuriating. First, because that’s my sidewalk as much as it is his, and I have a right to walk down it at 8:45 AM in broad daylight—or at any time of the day or night that I want—without being violated. Second, because now I’m second-guessing how I handled it and whether there was something else I could’ve done to catch that coward. Telling the internet about him is, at this point, the only thing I can think to do.
Here’s what happened: I turned off of Florida Avenue, Northeast, onto M Street, and was about halfway down the block. An African-American man—stocky build, maybe five-feet-nine or -ten, wearing a black rain jacket with the hood up and baggy jeans (I couldn’t clearly see his face because of the hood but he looked 30ish)—turned the corner off of Sixth Street and walked toward me. When he got closer, I saw that his genitals were out and he was masturbating. I immediately grabbed my phone and he took off running. He took a right onto Florida, and headed east.
I called 9-1-1, then considered chasing after him. The operator told me to stay where I was. It took about ten minutes for the police to show up. By this point, the man was surely long gone. The officer was nice, and shared in my outrage. Turns out many women have called the police lately with the exact same experience, describing the same man, in the same part of the neighborhood. The police believe he lives in the area. It is worth noting that this was right across the street from Gallaudet University. Officer Johnson took my information and said the police are compiling a case to bring to the US Attorney, in the hopes they catch the guy soon. “This little fucker is getting to be a nuisance,” he told me. “He always gets away so quick.”
Nuisance is one way to describe him. I’ll go with sex offender, pervert, criminal, and/or piece-of-shit-excuse-for-a-human. Knowing he’s done this to so many women and gotten away with it makes me wish I’d done more. I wish I’d at least followed him to the corner of M and Florida, so I could’ve gotten a better look at him and where he was headed. I wish I’d used my phone to first snap his picture instead of calling 9-1-1. Maybe none of those things would’ve helped. Maybe they would’ve made things worse. But if he’s known for getting away “so quick” and it takes ten minutes for the cops to show up, then it’s hard to feel hopeful that he’ll ever be caught. I worry this isn’t the worst sex crime he’s committed, or will commit.
I called my husband while I was waiting for the police. “In nine years of living in DC, this is the worst that’s happened to me. I guess it’s not that big a deal,” I heard myself say. I take that back. It’s an outrage that women have to put up with this kind of garbage, and much, much, much worse on the regular. It doesn’t matter where you live. It is a big deal.