Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What To Say To a Stranger Threatening to Grab Someone's Tits

Act #163: Be the kind of bystander who speaks up.

If you find the use of the word "tits" in a blog title offensive, I certainly hope you find the story I'm about to tell even more offensive.  Hopefully, offensive enough for you to do something about it.

Yesterday a dear young friend of mine was having a lovely day, daydreaming about an upcoming visit from her boyfriend, as she rode home on a public bus in Boston.  She sat next to a man, whom she barely noticed - well, because she was daydreaming  - when he looked over at her and stated, Nice tits.  At first, my friend, who is never at a loss for words, tried to ignore him.  Maybe she heard him wrong.  The bus was crowded.  She didn't want to make a scene.  He continued, Do you just hate black men or do you hate all men?  She tried to pretend like she didn't hear him, hoping that he would arrive at his destination and get off the bus soon.  Then he whispered, Nice tits. You know what I am gonna do to them.

The bus was crowded.  People near by had to have heard this exchange, but all the other passengers were so engrossed in their smart phones they didn't seem to notice.  Or at least they didn't seem to care.  And then my friend defied all nice girl stereotypes, all socially-acceptable bus-riding norms, and she proclaimed loudly, This man I've never met before keeps saying I have nice tits. I need assistance back here.

Kudos to the bus driver, who immediately intervened and removed the man from the bus.  But her fellow passengers weren't so honorable.  Every single one of them continued to read their e-mails and the daily news on their phones - most not even looking up.  What would you do if you were seated behind my friend and witnessed this act of intimidation?  Would you simply mind your own business?  Maybe you would think that my friend was capable of handling things on her own?   Maybe you wouldn't want to face the possibility of getting into a fight with a stranger.  Or maybe, like most people, you simply wouldn't know what to say.   Bingo.  If you've found yourself in this situation and didn't speak up because you didn't know what to say, well, here are some suggestions:

1.  Why don't you take my seat?  Help to physically remove a victim from the situation.

2.  Check out this Youtube video.  Divert attention away from a potentially volatile situation.

3.  Hey everyone, let's help this young lady get to her next stop safely!  Solicit the help of others.

4.  How 'bout them Red Sox (insert any team name here)?  Intervene verbally by changing the topic.

5.  Or, you can just spill your drink all over yourself.  Seriously.  Oh, and make a scene.  It's a small price to pay to distract unwanted attention away from a stranger who is making physical threats on a woman. 

So the next time you see someone's daughter, mother, or sister getting sexually harassed, go ahead and speak up.  You now have five ways to do so effectively.  If you don't want your kids to grow up in a world where sexual violence is acceptable, make this your business.

For more information on how you can promote the intolerance of violence and for more ways to intervene as a bystander, please visit or contact


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I've not seen other people being harassed because I rarely ride public transit anymore, but I've been the victim of plenty of street harassment, and it always leaves me fuming for days about what I could have said or done to combat it and make the guy understand that what he is doing is wrong and unacceptable.

    1. Just think, if all the folks around you, spoke up, you wouldn't even have to!