Emily Ruskowski isn’t thinking of much as she sits on a concrete bench at the Foggy Bottom Metro stop on a late-summer night in 2009. In a station crowded with loitering commuters, one man makes his presence known. He’s tall, young, dressed professionally in a blue button-down and black slacks, not bad looking, actually. He paces in front of Ruskowski once, twice, before finally settling down next to her on the bench. He stands up again, paces a few feet away, turns his back to the rail, and stands facing Ruskowski. When the train arrives, Ruskowski files in one car behind him.

Twenty minutes later, Ruskwoski, 25, arrives at the West Falls Church station and heads up the escalator. There he is again—already waiting at the turnstiles, quibbling with a station manager over a faulty SmarTrip card. The manager lets him through the gate, and he stands on the other side, facing Ruskowski again, waiting as she makes her way through the turnstile. He starts flirting. “How are you?” he asks. He speaks with a thick foreign accent. Ruskowski was right: He is handsome. “What’s your name? Do you have a boyfriend?” They turn toward the parking garage, where Ruskowski had left her Toyota that morning. He asks her to have dinner with him. And for her phone number. She is polite. She tells him she’ll take his number down. She’ll call him.

They reach the elevator. Ruskowski presses the button for her floor. “What floor are you on?” she asks him. “Same as you,” he says. It’s almost 1 a.m., and Ruskowski doesn’t mind having company through the desolate garage, actually. “I’ll be fine,” she thinks. “This pervert is going to walk me to my car. No other pervert will grab me, as I’m claimed by this pervert.”

They exit the elevator. The floor is empty save for two cars, parked side-by-side. Out of 2,009 parking spots in the garage, they had parked directly next to each other. “That’s funny. You parked next to me,” Ruskowski tells the guy. “I didn’t drive,” he says. They reach her car. He asks her out. He asks for her phone number. The hair on the back of her neck begins to rise up. Had he followed her all the way from Foggy Bottom? She counters again for his number. “No, I’m taking yours,” he informs her. Ruskowski rummages for a slip of paper in her purse, careful to avoid any receipt with a name or an address or a credit card number. She considers delivering him a fake, but what if he calls, right there, in the empty lot? She writes down her phone number and hands it to him.

And then he’s leaning on the driver’s side door of her car. He wants a hug. She puts her arms out to block him and he wraps himself around her. She pulls away and says goodnight. “Why don’t I come to your house, now?” he presses her. “Where do you live? I don’t have a car,” he says. Ruskowski tells him she has to leave. She unlocks her door. She’s shaking. “One more hug,” he insists. He circles around her, blocking her access to the door. He reaches his hand out and grabs her breast. His hands pin her arms to her side. She struggles. He tries to kiss her. She whips her face away, pushes him off, enters the car, slams the door, and locks it. He knocks on the window to wave “bye-bye.”

She watches as he walks away, then peels out of the garage. She calls her best friend, Sean Duggan. Duggan is asleep in his Boston apartment, but he picks up the phone. She sounds calm at first. “I think I’ve been assaulted,” she tells him. As she recounts the story, she becomes more and more upset. She sounds like she’s in shock. She starts to sound a little paranoid. She’s worried about the man recognizing her car, knowing her license plate number, tracking her down with her phone number, showing up at her house, waiting for her at the Metro stop. They stay on the phone for an hour. Ruskowski returns to the station the next day and files a report with the Metro Transit Police.

That night, she receives a call from a strange phone number. She doesn’t pick up; the caller leaves no message. The next morning, the number calls again. No message. She can’t believe she actually surrendered her contact information to a sexual assailant. Ruskowski calls the Metro police over and over again, hoping to reach an officer who will investigate the case in light of the new information—she’s got the guy’s number. She keeps getting redirected to a line that no one answers. Eventually, Detectives Jim Duncan and Kate Loran take Ruskowski’s call and provide her with this instruction: If the guy calls again, pick up.

The next day, he calls. She picks up. It’s him. The phone connection is bad, and the man’s accent is thick, but she can make out his intent: “When can I see you, when can I see you,” he says. “I love you, I love you. I’ll see you, I’ll see you.” Ruskowski proposes an afternoon date for the next day. They agree to meet at the West Falls Church Metro at 4 p.m.

Ruskowski gets there at 3. She waits just outside the turnstiles. Loran stands beside her, posing in plainclothes as Ruskowski’s friend. Three other officers stand by. Ruskowski keeps her eyes on the top of the escalator, scanning the face of each passenger who churns up into the station. Her date calls at 4:10 p.m. He’s late.

An hour later, he comes up the escalator and walks through the turnstile toward Ruskowski. He doesn’t get within 50 feet of her. She signals Loran. The man slows down. He sees the officers approaching. He attempts to turn around and re-enter the station. Then he swerves and runs for the exit. The officers restrain him. The man attempts to struggle out of their grasp. They bind him in handcuffs. One month later, he pleads guilty to sexual battery by force in Fairfax County District Court.

Six months after the attack—after the stalking, the grope, the police report, the sting operation, the restraining order and the plea hearing—Ruskowski is glad her groper followed up. “I felt really stupid for giving him my phone number, but that’s the thing that helped us catch him,” Ruskowski says. “I would never advocate giving your assailant your number, of course, but I would do anything in your power to report the incident, as hard as it  can be. If you’re persistent and honest, someone will listen to you at some point.”

—-

This column is the fifth (and final!) in a series. Catch up:

Part 1:Touch and Go: How Groping Happens.
Part 2: “I Just Wanted Him to Finish And Leave”: Why Some Groping Victims Stay Silent.
Part 3: “Why Would I Want to Touch Your Ass?”: When Groping Victims Talk Back.
Part 4
: “I Wanted Him to Feel Physical Pain”: The Revenge Fantasies of Groping Victims

Find all the Sexist’s groping coverage here. Illustration by Brooke Hatfield.

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