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It is a principle of public sexual assault that gropers will follow the path of least resistance. They will gravitate toward situations where their activities will not be discovered, and their assaults will not be punished. They operate in the Metro, where the close proximity of passengers obscures non-accidental touching and escape is difficult. They operate in bars, where they can blame it on the alcohol. They operate in gay bars, where patrons have their guard down and gropers can easier infiltrate their personal space. And they choose targets who cannot fight back, or won’t be believed when they do.
It wasn’t until I read this woman’s experience, via Holla Back DC!, that I understood how D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade could present the groper’s perfect storm. She writes:
I marched in the Capital Pride Parade last weekend as part of a marching band. For part of the parade route, the crowds had pushed up into the street, leaving very little room to march through and no space to separate us from the crowd. One man at the front of the crowd took the opportunity to grab my ass as I marched by.
Because I was concentrating hard on playing and marching, I couldn’t respond. Nonetheless this upset me. Obviously, being part of a parade does not make my body public property. I was also disturbed by the fact that, given the context, this guy probably assumed I was a lesbian, yet still felt entitled (perhaps even felt more entitled) to sexually assault me.
All the elements are here: The close proximity, the element of alcohol, the assumption of a safe space, and the selection of a target who—-because she is directly in the public eye, because she is concentrating on playing an instrument, because she is surrounded by potential suspects, because she’s swiftly marching away from them, and because she may even be a member of a marginalized group—-can’t do anything about it. That’s not to say that Capital Pride is infested with gropers—-but this isn’t the first story I’ve heard from someone being assaulted at this year’s event.
We know that gropers seek out situations like this in order to get away with assault. In order to deal with that reality, we invent excuses to blame groping victims for also being present in these circumstances. The victim-blaming is tailored for each space in which a groper operates. Because sexual assailants target places where people are drinking, “potential victims” shouldn’t drink so much. Women—-and men, both gay and straight, who aren’t into non-consensual groping from strangers—-don’t belong in gay bars, or at least shouldn’t complain when they’re assaulted in them. Of course, it’s hard to argue that people should avoid public transportation just because gropers get off on the sheer number of people who do take the train. So we suggest that people targeted on the Metro are to blame for failing to speak up or fight back.
Even an action as innocuous as playing in a marching band at a Pride Parade has to be defended against the implication that the victim was asking for it: “Obviously, being part of a parade does not make my body public property,” she writes.