READER REPORT: Harassed on a West Seattle street

From Emily:

I’m reaching out to spread awareness of women pairing in two or more to diffuse potential threats of sexual harassment and assault.

I was an eyewitness today to an incident in the neighborhood of 40th and Edmunds where a young professional woman was the victim of sexual harassment. In said incident the woman was approached from behind and “sniffed” by a stranger, old white male in mid-70s, over 6ft tall. He said something along the lines of “I’ll be coming back for more” and stood within inches, again approaching the young woman from behind. Understandably, she was so startled she couldn’t respond or react.

Myself and another young woman immediately started screaming at the man. I raised my hands at him and yelled “what is your problem?” We both began yelling that sniffing someone was outrageous and absolutely inappropriate behavior. We reminded him it was 2019 and the other woman remarked “would you do that to your daughter?” The old man walked away and then returned to make more comments at us for “bullying him” and forcing him to “feel bad” for his actions. We demanded he apologize to the young woman that he harassed and grossly invaded her personal space and privacy. He backed down and shrugged his shoulders and walked away seeming defeated. He yelled a half-winded apology to the female and left the area.

I hope this is helpful to other woman in similar situations. I truly believe power in numbers came into play here and it was just two against one. I want to spread awareness that sexual harassment is always prevalent, it doesn’t cease even in the current Me Too Movement. Something disturbing about this encounter was that the old man knew he was in the wrong and still walked the line of perversion, daring to see if anyone would object. I encourage other ladies to stick together, even if it’s a stranger, your power will be immeasurable. I’m especially saying this to women who understandably feel like they can’t stand up for themselves in the moment of said harassment or assault. This should add a level of responsibility and accountability for one another that can only grow in years to come.

Here’s more about street harassment.

62 Replies to "READER REPORT: Harassed on a West Seattle street"

  • Beto October 11, 2019 (10:01 pm)

    According to the situation, sounds like that man has mental problems.    I feel very sorry for you and the other ladies.   I hope that women are more careful in that part of West Seattle.

    • flimflam October 12, 2019 (8:31 am)

      ….and? so should we now shift gears and feel sorry for the jerk if he has “mental problems”? anyone that harass another person has some sort of “mental problem” but that doesn’t mean the same as “mental illness”.either way, give me a break with the sympathy for the jerk.

      • Graciano October 12, 2019 (6:30 pm)

        No where did Beto say we must feel sorry for the man it was just assumption (allowed to think that) that the man may have mental issues.

    • m October 12, 2019 (9:30 am)

      “Mental problems”…maybe. Or he’s just a man who’s gotten away with asserting his power for decades. And how could the woman who was harassed have been any more “careful” than just going about her business in a public space? This is not about women having to be careful; this is about a gross abuse of power. 

  • Lee October 11, 2019 (10:54 pm)

    As someone who lives near this same intersection, I just want to say thanks to Emily and the other young woman who intervened. It’s scary to get involved in a situation with an unknown person like this – and that’s exactly how harassers get away with this kind of thing way too often.     

  • Alki resident October 11, 2019 (10:54 pm)

    Why force a creep to apologize? He doesn’t mean it, he’s clearly a predator and needs to be held accountable. He walked away or did he head towards a house or car? This is very disturbing. Also shocking is the age of this man. I’m sorry to the victim, I can’t imagine but thank goodness for the vicious women who came to the aid. 

  • Bradley October 11, 2019 (11:24 pm)

    Due to his age demographic and odd behavior, it’s very likely that this man has dementia, mental illness, Rx drug interactions, or a mix of all three. 

    • Lee October 11, 2019 (11:38 pm)

      Those are all possibilities, but I think it’s inappropriate for you to say that these things are “very likely” given that you were not a witness to this event and don’t have any direct knowledge of the perpetrator or his motives. Many people who behave in this manner are perfectly lucid, sane, sober, and culpable.

      • Kayo October 12, 2019 (7:12 am)

        I agree.  Let’s not assume that this person was mentally ill.  That is highly problematic.  Maybe he was just a gross old man who has done this over and over and gotten away with it because no one spoke up.  

      • flimflam October 12, 2019 (8:33 am)

        again, that doesn’t give anyone a free pass to commit crimes, etc. so tired of the apologists for crime and anti-social behavior.

      • HS October 12, 2019 (12:52 pm)

        This is not mental illness. It’s a man being a creep because he can. His behavior is not uncommon, I’ve many times been the recipient of the exact same behavior. Just look at Ken Fishers lewd comments reported in Bloomberg this week. 

        • Bradley October 12, 2019 (1:32 pm)

          Spend some time around the severely mentally ill. They can exhibit shocking behavior all day long.

          • HS October 12, 2019 (1:57 pm)

            Bradley, a man inches away from a woman’s backside saying something sexually suggestive is not an uncommon experience for women. 

  • T October 11, 2019 (11:53 pm)

    I had a disturbing run in today. It’s getting more common. I think there’s still more good people than bad but it’s slowly sliding in the wrong direction IMO.

    • Ws res October 12, 2019 (8:04 am)

      I think it is bizarre that Beto and Bradley are excusing this creeps behavior on this thread. I don’t  are what illness this dude may have, it is not acceptable behavior. I applaud these women for helping another woman out. 

  • anonyme October 12, 2019 (6:25 am)

    I concur with Lee.  We live in a culture which, until very recently, condoned this type of behavior as harmless (which it is not).   The suggestion that women should only go out in pairs reads like a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale.  It’s essential that witnesses speak up when observing such incidents, but I don’t want a Saudi Arabian society.  A proper response would be pepper spray in the face, I’d say.

  • D-Mom October 12, 2019 (6:29 am)

    Wow!  Awesome you stood up for her! What I love about this is not only did you help keep her safe, but you took the shame and stigma out of how she must have felt about it. Instead of feeling scared and embarrassed, I imagine she’d feel empowered after someone stood up for her in such a way. So it’s a double win!  Not to mention hopefully teaching the man that it’s inappropriate. 

  • Kayo October 12, 2019 (7:10 am)

    I think most women have experienced street harrassment and remember how awful it feels. I also think of my young teenage daughter and cringe that she is now old enough that it may happen to her.  No one stood up to defend me when it happened to me as a younger woman and there are times others were around who could’ve done something.  Good for you for fighting back.  💪🏻 ❤️

  • KM October 12, 2019 (7:44 am)

    Kudos to those awesome ladies who stood up to this man. Somehow “older” and “white” is a demographic that causes others to make excuses for his behavior. If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment/assault/rape, it’s often very painful to watch your community make excuses for the perpetrator. 

  • Kim October 12, 2019 (8:18 am)

    Emily, thank you so! I hope I would react like you did in that situation. All those mentally ill excuses? Bah! It’s misogyny, guys, that gave this man the go-ahead to assault this woman.

  • Al October 12, 2019 (8:31 am)

    Did you take of picture of this man.  If any of you have this problem.  Take there picture for SPD  to locate. Yell firer to get some ones attention.   Sounds like hes done the before and was watching this women.  

  • JRR October 12, 2019 (8:38 am)

    What is truly disturbing to me are the comments trying to justify his actions. Cool misogyny, neighbors. Believe women and listen to what we say, please.

  • Jennifer October 12, 2019 (8:53 am)

    Thank you both for standing up for another woman. It takes guts to do that and we all need to have each other’s backs.  Being mentally ill does not excuse the behavior. Who knows what might have happened if these women hadn’t stepped in. Maybe nothing maybe a lot worse.  The only other thing I might suggest in this kind of a situation is to call the police at some point.  They just need to know that things like this are happening so they can track it and get a description.  This will help them to see if this was a one off or a pattern. Hopefully at some point if this person does have mental issues they can get him some help.  

  • West Seattle Mom October 12, 2019 (9:10 am)

    If the man was engaged enough to call the women bullies and mutter an apology, then he’s cognizant enough to know the sexual harassment of the lone woman was surrendering to a base impulse.  My son has been schizophrenic since childhood.  He has delusions. He is occasionally fearful of the people around him.   He talks about how hard it is to keep an “inner beast” in check. He knows he should not be given a free pass for acting out impulses.  I hope anyone sees this man sexually harassing  a woman they vigorously check him.  I occasionally remind my son that people are not his dogs to kick. 

  • Me-too October 12, 2019 (9:11 am)

    Why do people make excuses for this man? You should NOT try to engage him in conversation. Defend yourself, run, yell, call for help. Don’t give him the attention he’s seeking. Take his picture so we know who to look out for. 

  • cris maryhill October 12, 2019 (9:14 am)

    hopefully if we can get a photo of the vermin who are harassing us the wsb will post it so everyone can see who they are.  it happened to me when i was 7 yrs old and nobody believed me because he was a seattle traffic judge.  i believe they keep doing it because they are not exposed.  lets stop shaming the victim and start public shaming of the perpetrators.  #metoo.

  • aa October 12, 2019 (9:15 am)

    Hey Beto:  These women don’t need you to feel sorry for them.  Rather be happy that they used their voice and spoke up to tell this man that what he was doing is not ok.How much more careful do women have to be?  It is not our responsibility to be careful because there are men out there who think its ok to behave this way.  Rather lets tell those me it time they start being careful because we are tired of this s–t! No more creepy old men, no more creepy old uncles taking an extra squeeze, no bosses putting their hands around our waists, no more thinking you can do what you have always done.  Enough.  

  • Lace October 12, 2019 (10:44 am)

    Fully appreciate the fact that the FIRST comment here assisted in defending/excusing the man who harassed the woman. Ugh. What he did was wrong, bottom line! What the heck, people??

  • CAM October 12, 2019 (11:46 am)

    There’s a big difference between looking for an explanation and excusing behavior. It’s good to look for explanations for why things happen. It helps us understand them and do better to prevent them. By contrast, excusing someone’s behavior would be saying it was okay that they did what they did for some reason. I don’t see anyone here excusing anything. People are saying that they think the man’s behavior sounds bizarre and to them that suggests it is likely influenced by something, mental illness, substances, etc. In reality though, the behavior is not bizarre. There are plenty of elderly sex offenders or people with paraphilias who engage in this behavior without any signs of mental illness. Let’s not jump all over people though for attempting to make sense of a situation for themselves. 

    • Susanna23 October 12, 2019 (7:04 pm)

      Exactly Cam thank you for your comment!

  • ER October 12, 2019 (12:12 pm)

    Emily (the eyewitness here) I wanted to clear a few things up after taking in comments. First, thank you to the people who commented in support of myself and the other young women involved. Our actions to step in to defend and ward off the perpetrator could be described as a primal instinct. Second, I watched this guy from beginning of harassment to the moment of defeat. He was sharp, not displaying any signs of mental disorientation, or intoxication. His nose touched the young professional woman’s ear as he sniffed her and seemed to be “grinding” the air around her body in the same instant, saying he would be coming back for more. His sense of entitlement was palpable and he was shocked there was a clap back for behaving this way.
    Thank you for commenting #metoo

    • Jake October 12, 2019 (1:13 pm)

      What time of day was this? I live in the neighborhood (with my family) and there are several people I’m trying to keep tabs on from a neighborhood watch perspective. Thanks.

      • ER October 12, 2019 (3:09 pm)

        This was day time, about noon.

    • CAM October 12, 2019 (2:10 pm)

      Emily – what you are describing is called frotteurism and if the perpetrator actually made contact with the victim the police would arrest this man and he could be charged with a crime. Likely a misdemeanor but if he has prior offenses that could contribute to more serious charges or penalties. I agree with the other commenters that calling the police is a good option but also understand that is not always something that people feel safe/comfortable doing. I can say that the majority of police nowadays have a much better understanding of these things and would not be dismissive of a report like this as some may have been in the past. 

      • B.W. October 13, 2019 (8:37 pm)

        Cam, you are aware who our prosecutor is right? This guy was in his 70s, no chance he would have seen more than a day in a Seattle jail for a misdemeanor crime. I get that people on here think this is a heinous crime, but it’s not.  It’s a simple assault according to Seattle laws. 

  • Your Mother October 12, 2019 (12:37 pm)

    I find it interesting that this is such a polarizing subject. Isn’t it possible to believe that what the man did was entirely wrong as well as acknowledge that he may have a mental illness? To feel bad for someone that has experienced something disturbing as well as think that they are awesome for standing up to being treated unfairly? To believe that no one should be treated this way as well as wish that we are all careful when out in public? I am a woman who has been harassed as well as attacked by men in public. I also known two people who had dementia and who did things that they would never have done without grappling with mental illness. This does not excuse their behavior, but it can explain it to a degree. I don’t presume to know whether this man has a mental illness, but it is possible. Does he need to stop this behavior, of course.Life is not simple and neither are people. Life is lived in the gray area and there are usually many different factors that influence how people act and react. The older I grow the more I understand this.

  • Daphneadora October 12, 2019 (1:51 pm)

    Emily, Thank you for standing up for the young woman and saying something. I don’t know how many times as a teen/young woman  a man did something/said something inappropriate to me in public and I was frozen and the adults around me (both male and female) did nothing. The message I got was that it was just something you had to put up with and there was nothing to do about it. I’m so glad that you said something, it’s the only way entitled men are going to stop their behavior. 

  • JRR October 12, 2019 (2:04 pm)

    Being mentally ill doesn’t allow or excuse behavior. Signed someone who is mentally ill. Stop with the misinformation and excuses. Men do this crap to women in public all the time. If you haven’t seen it, you are probably part of the problem.

  • Lynn October 12, 2019 (2:49 pm)

    Thank you WS Blog for posting this. Emily thank you for calling this creep out. I will do the same if i ever see this happen. 

    • WSB October 12, 2019 (3:37 pm)

      Taking something like this seriously is important.

      It’s been many years now so many might not remember – or even be aware of (especially if you have lived here a shorter time) – the Duane Starkenburg case.

      It started with a 2010 incident that made a brief Crime Watch mention because of a police search – a jogger tripped and was grabbed around the waist from behind. He was arrested in 2011 after grabbing another jogger. He turned out to also be a child rapist. He went to prison in 2012 after a plea bargain in both the jogger attacks and child rape. Extreme case but it started simple so … you just never know. (I checked BTW, he’s still in prison.) – TR

  • Bradley October 12, 2019 (4:36 pm)

    It wouldn’t hurt to occasionally go through this database to see just how many registered sex offenders are out there among us in the West Seattle area. Two of the listed level 2 offenders are members of a popular West Seattle gym. Also keep in mind that these are just those who were convicted, not just arrested and charged. And, yes, many of these offenders are also mentally ill and cannot be reasoned with, so it’s always best to be vigilant.

  • D October 12, 2019 (5:46 pm)

    I was ganged up on last Sunday by a man with the same discrimination and his adult son (grandson?) in the same area. As I was walking my dog he came at me and the younger one told me “suck his d–k” and grabbed himself obscenely. I yelled as loud as I could to get others attention and no one came. I called 911 and filed a police report. Why does anyone think this acceptable behavior?

  • Margaret October 12, 2019 (6:23 pm)

    Sometimes when people act in disturbing ways we seek to distance ourselves from the person.  We rationalize their behavior in such a way as not to be forced to recognize it or any behavior similar to it in ourselves.  The easiest way for people to do this is to claim the person we are choosing to distance ourselves from is “crazy” or has “mental issues.”  The truth is something like 75% of people have “mental issues” within their lifetime and that statistic may he higher since there are likely people experiencing “mental issues” who are not aware of it and so it is never documented or treated.   The terms “crazy” and “mental illness” are abstract concepts.  Technically almost any behavior is “normal” to the point that it doesn’t interfere with an individual’s major life functioning.  I would like to state that misogyny is normal in our society.  Women are routinely sexually harassed by men from all cross sections of society and a lot of it is considered normal.  Attributing the choices of individuals who engage in unacceptable behavior that reflects their belief system as “crazy” fails to hold people accountable in such a way as to promote meaningful change.  This man treated this woman/girl as a sexual object existing for his pleasure.  This is misogyny and it is common feature of the way women are treated and portrayed throughout society.  This man behaved as though his rights to derive pleasure from this woman superseded her rights to privacy, personal space and safety.  Men rape women for the same reasons all the time and their is plenty of rhetoric out there that defends these actions!  Victims of rape are likely to have “mental issues” resulting from the trauma they experienced while perpetrators walk away unscathed.   Please can we stop the BS of saying people who behave in disturbing ways or commit heinous acts of violence are “crazy” (such as a person who shoots up a muslim religious group) a d start holding these people accountable to their own degenerate beliefs and morals.  

  • Concerned Neighbor October 12, 2019 (8:16 pm)

    Does it really matter if the man was “mentally ill”, drunk, or just creepy?  It was still inappropriate behavior, that needed an intervention of some kind to help the harassed woman.  Thank you, Emily and friend.  Btw, my vote is that considering he responded to the directives of the ladies and moved on indicated that he probably wasn’t mental and could control his behavior.  

  • Confused... October 12, 2019 (10:02 pm)

    Why didn’t the OP or the victim call the police? The guy (regardless of his age) is harassing and menacing a woman/neighbor/someone minding their own business. Speculating on the man’s mental health means exactly nothing. If someone is physically harassing another person- call the police. 

    • CMT October 13, 2019 (10:02 am)

      This comment is so infuriating.  Maybe they didn’t call the police because they were in the middle of going places and living their lives and didn’t have time to spend on a likely futile call to report something that is excused on a daily basis.  Have you looked at the White House or the Supreme Court?  

      • Still confused... October 15, 2019 (1:10 pm)

        Terribly sorry to “infuriate” you with a practical & pragmatic solution. The posters had enough time to come on here & write the post, so I don’t think their lives were interrupted. If you call 911 & report that someone is being harassed/is in danger you will get a response. Not it sure what the White House & Supreme Court have to do with this. I do hope that if I or members of my family were being harassed in view of others, they would call the police- guess I’m an outlier- sorry to infuriate you. 

        • barton October 16, 2019 (8:06 am)

          No worries, I’ll get over it and thanks for the sarcasm.  We have a man who brags about assaulting women as the president of the United States and the most recent appointee to the Supreme Court was the subject of a highly credible accusation of assault.  They “have to do with this” because they illustrate the futility of reporting.  Your comment was infuriating because it fails to take into account this reality that women face and also appears to be critical of their failure to call the police when often women are frozen/in shock trying to process what just happened and by the time that wears off the person is long gone.

  • Elikapeka October 12, 2019 (10:41 pm)

    Thanks to Emily and her friend for doing exactly the right thing.  Making noise and drawing attention to the situation is the best immediate response.  If this happens to you, state loudly and forcefully for the person to step away,  and don’t be afraid to make a scene.  The Seattle Police Department offers a good women’s personal safety training course, and it’s free.  The dates and times are usually posted on Nextdoor.Regardless of the perpetrator’s mental state or other issues, in the moment it really doesn’t matter.  One person is assaulting/harassing/intimidating/victimizing another, and that behavior cannot ever be met with anything but the steps necessary for the intended victim to remain safe and put a stop to the encounter.  Standing up for and watching out for each other is essential.    I wish more people would act like Emily and her friend did.    

  • sgs October 13, 2019 (1:11 pm)

    As the mom of an only child, a 14 year old girl, this situation makes me mad, sad, worried, etc.  So glad that there are people who will step in – thank you.    People need to make right choices, addicts and mentally ill need treatment, women need to be alert, police need to be able to do their jobs…..etc, etc, etc.  Our society needs serious healing on lots of levels.

  • Dimples October 13, 2019 (4:00 pm)

    Telling women to not ever go anywhere alone is bull. It doesn’t stop harrassment or rape. I understand the reasons behind it, but stop telling women to not live their normal lives, and start telling these perpetrators that it’s not ok. And yes, stand up for each other. Yes, we’re stronger in numbers if we’re looking out for each other, but until we coach men from childhood to not go anywhere alone, to always carry their keys as a weapon in their hand, to not wear anything too revealing, then you’re only victim blaming/shaming in the guise of concern. Don’t tell women they should always be with people. Tell men they should stop being predatory. 

  • anonyme October 13, 2019 (5:03 pm)

    I agree with Cam, YourMother, and others that the comments made by Beto and Bradley are neither misogynistic nor condoning of this man’s behavior.  I’m almost 70 and a lifelong feminist who has experienced not only decades of sexual harassment, but rape, assault, and discrimination.  This is a societal problem, and we need men in the conversation.  Attacking men who want to be supportive, albeit somewhat awkwardly, is not the solution.   It only perpetuates an adversarial relationship.  While I’m necessarily cautious of men, I refuse to demonize them.  One more comment: ageism is as prevalent and unaddressed in our culture as sexism, yet rarely mentioned.   For the record, 70 does not equal diminished capacity.  Dementia at that age is far rarer than say, youthful stupidity and lack of judgment in one’s twenties…or beyond.

    • CatLady October 13, 2019 (6:27 pm)

      We really don’t need a “not all men” comment on this thread, but here you are :/ Yes, we need men in this fight, but they also need to learn to take criticism. Making sure they’re comfortable isn’t the point. Womxn have been uncomfortable (and worse) for centuries. Calling men out does not equal demonizing them. Come on.

      • CAM October 13, 2019 (7:45 pm)

        “Calling people out” when they aren’t doing what you’re accusing them of is what makes people close themselves off to the rest of your argument.

        • Your Mother October 13, 2019 (9:51 pm)

          Perfectly said. 

        • NotAll October 13, 2019 (11:55 pm)

          Call out culture is the modern version of Salem.  It doesn’t matter what the truth is, let’s just burn the witch.  I’m female and have experienced more violence and shitty behavior from men than I want to talk about.  Realize that you can educate men on a topic without responding to them as if they’re all misogynists and potential rapists.

          • CatLady October 14, 2019 (6:49 pm)

            NotAll – sure, telling men not to excuse other men’s creepy behavior is EXACTLY like when innocent women were literally burned to death. Your comparison is spot on and I’m so glad you’re here to defend men. God knows they need it! I mean we can’t have them face any sort of actual consequences for their actions 🙄🙄🙄

  • heyalki October 14, 2019 (9:30 am)

    I’m glad people are finally bringing up how common this type of thing is. Growing up I took the bus and walked everywhere and this type of stuff happened almost every day. Almost got kidnapped once, been followed by strangers for blocks, meowed at, and other weird scary uncomfortable things. 

    • JRR October 14, 2019 (5:13 pm)

      I’m a runner. It still happens almost every day.

      • heyalki October 15, 2019 (7:51 am)

        yeah, from all that stuff, now I’m too scared to go anywhere by myself or walk places. It’s hard to explain how that feels to someone who hasn’t experienced that level of interference in their lives.  Stay strong and be careful out there ladies.  -_-

  • Diane October 15, 2019 (10:12 am)

    Another source of information is the King County Sex Offender page – you can type in your address and get a list of registered sex offenders within a radius of your address – they actually have photos of registered sex offenders, their approximate living location and the type of offense they’ve actually been charged with.  Check it out — if you recognize the “sniffer” as a registered sex offender, then by all means call the police.  Of course, call the police anyway and let them know what happened.

  • NW October 16, 2019 (6:40 pm)

    I have been to the West Seattle Library numerous times observed a man who seems to match descriptions given of the person who made offensive gestures. This individual is tall a senior with gray hair and I have seen the librarians engaging with him for looking at porn on the libraries computers. I have also seen this man yelling out perverse expletives around the library, he gets around and walks all over West Seattle. These are all my personal observations.

Sorry, comment time is over.