This is the story of Sophie. A media woman who lives in Manhattan. The first week in the city was filled with the average boisterous behaviour that you’d expect from any young woman who had just moved to NYC. I wrote this to hopefully spread awareness that this is a real issue that exists in the city and I hope it will be used a starting point to get these creeps off the streets. The core message of this article is for women to NEVER GET INTO THE FRONT SEAT OF CABS! no matter what the circumstances. And to allow New York to remain the great city that it truly is. And I hope you will share the story of Sophie to hopefully protect the women that you care about in your lives from similar situations.
It was September of 2010. I had just moved to New York and was as exhilarated as I was naive. I made all the classic newbie mistakes; I got ripped off by a broker for an unbearably loud room above several bars. I fooled around with DJs in the meatpacking district. I didn’t sleep much that first year. My start date was a Monday in mid-September; a few days before that, I flew home to my mother’s in Virginia to see her, play with my dog, and get some proper rest before my first day of ‘real life.’
Sophie had just landed a new job in Manhattan and was as excited as any young woman would be starting her career in New York. The weekend before she did what any vibrant woman would do on a saturday night, she partied until 2AM in the morning. Reaching home just after 3AM, Sophie crashed for the night.
At 5AM, her alarm buzzed, she pulled herself out of bed with the hangover still leaving her with a cloudy head. All set to head over to JFK Airport, she would roll down the six flights of stairs and down to the street to hail a taxi.
At this time it was still dark in the city, for a young lady in the East Village it could be cause for concern. But all she had to do was get into the nearest cab, luckily a car pulled up almost instantly and the quirky obese driver swung open the front door to her.
“Where to? Hop up front!” he would say in an indistinguishable accent. Paying no attention to the request, Sophie would accept it and sit in the front seat.
As they drove towards the airport the driver would go on to make pointless small talk with her about everyday nonsense. She was still nursing her hangover so she would barely acknowledge what he was talking about.
“Hey, I can read palms, would you like me to tell you your future?” he exclaimed as they continued throughout the city.
At this point, the alcohol from the night before, left Sophie’s female intuition at a standstill, and she turned her palm over to him. “Whatever, maybe this will stop him from talking to me.” she thought.
At some point along the drive, she began to doze off against the window. Seatbelt still strapped and her hand still in his. Strange feelings of anxiety brewed throughout her mind, as the reality of what was happening to her came to light. When she opened her eyes, they were just a few blocks away from the airport, she looked over to see his left hand on the wheel, but his right hand no longer holding hers. Instead it was down her blouse, under her bra, massaging her breast.
Sophie would yelp in shock as she tried to pull his hand away from her, but he continued to act, coaxing her that it would be okay and that he was a nice guy. She continually batted at him as he repeatedly tried to touch her chest, as they pulled into the busy airport zone, he finally gave up. She sat there stunned, in utter disbelief of what had just transpired.
Somehow pulling herself together, she took her AMEX out of her wallet and paid the fare. She begrudgingly tapped the 20% tip button on the payment machine too. This was the thing that truly irritated and somewhat humiliated Sophie, she tipped the man that just sexually assaulted her. She was not thinking straight, her mind was in a state of shock and her body just wanted her to get the hell out of the cab.
After paying, she grabbed her bags and made her way towards the ladies washroom; She huddled in a stall with her hands wrapped around her knees choking back her tears and struggling to breathe.
She would rationalize it in her head: “At least he actually took me to the airport and not some alley, at least it was all above the waist.” Anything to gain her composure so that she could get on her flight to Virginia.
Once she was on the plane, she knocked back an Avitan sleeping pill and slept the entire flight. Once she reached her Mother’s place she would explain that the travel left her exhausted, and that she just wanted to take a long nap. Sophie took another Avitan and drifted off into her slumber.
As the weekend went on, she would go about as if nothing had happened to her. Eating family dinners, watching her favorite TV show or playing with her dog. Sophie felt great shame and was embarrassed of what had happened to her and did not want to bring it to concern of her family.
She eventually told her best friend, herself a sexual assault victim, about the ordeal. Her friend was upset that Sophie had not reported the incident to the authorities, but she could understand that Sophie was too distraught to think about it at the time. She just wanted to forget the whole ordeal had ever happened.
The worst thing about the situation was the fact that the driver took all of the affection and admiration that Sophie had for her body and tarnished it in an instant. The ordeal would leave her shaken and with a heightened sense of anxiety towards riding in cabs ever again.
When I look down at them, I feel shame. I feel dirty. I imagine those selfish, filthy paws squeezing my unknowing, resting chest and I feel sick. Damn you, cabbie, damn you for mentally tarnishing my beloved breasts.
That was Sophie’s tragic tale of what had happened to her. I wish readers take notice of the events that took place and that no one can blame Sophie for what happened to her. No criticism should be taken from the fact that she was still inebriated at the time of the assault. It was not her fault and it is the attitude of victim blaming, which leaves our society with the taboo that comes with sexual assault.
Rather we should take this opportunity to create awareness to women in New York City, and throughout the country, to never sit in the front seat of a cab no matter what the circumstances. There are even situations of harassment taking place when a woman is with a group of her friends and sits in the front.
To prevent situations like this from happening again, I urge readers to take notice of any situations such that of what happened to Sophie’ and to report it to the proper authorities. To never be afraid or ashamed to tell someone their ordeals and to never remain silent or embarrassed of such tragedies. Remaining silent only leaves room and opportunities for it assaults to happen to another woman in the city and it that is the greatest adversity that I hope we can overcome to protect women against violence.