Three, four, knock at the door

I’m one of those liberals who likes to reject criminal stereotypes. Although I present as a prissy white middle class woman who might be obsessed by the murder of Laci Peterson while ignoring the thousands of women of color who are victims of crime, I’m not. I hate that Nancy Grace-style racism and I’ve always been determined to feel safe and rational in my beloved mixed income, diverse neighborhood.

Last year I wrote about the persistent sexual harassment I was experiencing around my home, which resulted in a little fear and the ruination of a favorite shoe. Well, things got worse.

When spring arrived, I should have guessed the budding trees, warm weather, and baby birds heralded another season of public masturbation. What I didn’t count on was the impact of having a broken gate, courtesy of a D.C. garbage truck incident.

I was woken at 6 a.m. one April morning by persistent banging on the door. Had I forgotten a Peapod order? Was FedEx delivering the world on time? I dragged on my dressing gown and rushed downstairs to find no one at the front door. Confused, I walked back to the kitchen to see last year’s perp (the tall guy) in my backyard, at my back door, jerking off.

I was terrified. Sobbing, I called the police and learned that property violation means they will actually respond to your call. I had never understood why all of last year’s calls went unanswered.

A very young, very earnest officer came round and did his best. I’m not to walk down alleys, and we’re to hope that it’s simply a “gratification” issue and that he’s not some sick individual who may have a more serious assault in mind. Thanks officer, now can I get back to drying my hair?

Of course I didn’t secure the gate…I’ve been busy! And I forgot to replace the bulb in the yard light. But things were ok until a couple of weeks ago when I opened my back door late one dark night to take out the garbage. There in my yard was a totally new guy (the short guy)—two feet away from me jerking off in the dark.

I’ve often had nightmares where I’m in danger and my voice is strangled in my throat. The upside of this terrifying episode is that I had no problem unleashing a very primal scream from deep inside. Any attempt I make to sound fierce in normal life just sounds ridiculous, but in this moment of crisis a vicious stream of cursing rushed out of my mouth.

The downside was of course my total breakdown after he ran off. My nice neighbors had to help me put out the garbage. I have never, never felt scared to leave my house before. And I have never felt scared to be in my house.

I didn’t call the police, but I was finally motivated to properly secure the broken fence and replace the light bulb, so I felt better and safer until earlier this week.

I went to get the paper one morning and thought I heard a noise, but went back inside. After all, it was only 6 a.m. and surely I’m the only crazy person up at that time? I leant over the kitchen counter reading the headlines waiting for the kettle to boil when something caught my eye out of the window. The short guy was back.

This time he was not in my yard, just in the alley at the side of the house—this was more of the old 2006-style harassment that I was more than familiar with. But I discovered that my psyche has been changed by these incidents. I experienced as much fear and distress that he was in the public alley in broad daylight as I did when he was in front of me in my dark backyard that night.

I called 911 and the woman operator was really nice, but of course no one came, and I’m left with a legacy that I despise. I start when people walk down the alley past my window. I’m on edge when branches and leaves are waiving through the glass. I fantasize about living in an apartment building in Cleveland Park. I keep the shades and shutters closed on a near constant basis creating a shadowy, lightless home. And I flinch when I see unknown African American men anywhere near my house. I fear I’ll be watching Nancy Grace next.

9 responses to “Three, four, knock at the door”

  1. Scotty says:

    God, Stella, this is so horrific. Is it possible that you live near a halfway house for sex offenders? If you found out that you did, would it make any difference?

    This is one of those posts that makes us all feel powerless.

  2. Beth W says:

    How horrible! On a safety level, perhaps you can install a motion sensing light in the alley. On an emotional level, I don’t believe you need to worry about becoming the next Nancy Grace. You are self aware enough to understand where your feelings are coming from and that they are valid reactions. Good luck and have a peaceful weekend.

  3. jeremy says:

    This makes me so angry. I wish you could get a BB gun or a long-distance taser or some such pain-inflicting device….

  4. Marleyfan says:

    Marleyfan’s top ten suggestions:
    1. Call Farrell to come chase the Perv (perp.) down.
    2. Buy one of the stun-guns that shoot barbed projectiles about ten feet, and have target practice.
    3. Call Ruben to set a trap, making sure it has the stick-um stuff. If Perv is caught, jump to #5.
    4. I deleted this one, because it sounded too much like Nancy Grace.
    5. Before removing Perv from the trap, call Uncle Dave to come over and explain Philosophy and Politics (aversion therapy). If this doesn’t work, skip to #10
    6. Call Annie Walker to prescribe some Saltpeter (sp?) for Perv.
    7. Call Professor (Waterman) over there to attach some Dungeness crab in all the right places.
    8. Call Literacy H. Dogfight and his/her friends to kick Perv’s ass.
    9. Call President Bush, and tell ‘em you have a terrorist or an illegal alien in the backyard (maybe they will respond faster than the D.C. police.
    10. Call Wendy West over to give Perv “the” talk.

  5. brooke says:

    This sucks, Stella. I agree with #2 about the motion-detecting light. The only other things I can think of are to make sure your house and property is well secured, and do a community meeting type thing to raise awareness. It sounds like your neighbors are fairly friendly and you shouldn’t have to put up with these creeps on your own.

  6. Miller says:

    This is so disturbing on so many levels. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to deal with something like this in your own home and pretty much have no recourse. I had an experience with a public masterbator, but it was at a motel, so I could at least leave the fear behind in some ways. That night my then boyfriend and his friend left to get food; minutes later I saw a man pleasuring himself inches away from the window. The cops said that due to the man’s timing, he had probably been stalking us for some time, waiting for any moment in which I might be alone.

    I did some research on my own (as you’ve stated, the cops can’t really do much) and found that this isn’t even considered a sexual offense–it’s apparently seen as more of an addiction, like many people have to gambling or shopping. I reasoning behind it is that the person gets more gratification from the fear and shock that the women experiences than from the sexual act. One article I found (a pretty reputable psycholgical study, from what I remember) even went so far as to state that if the man is more than an arms length away, they shouldn’t be considered dangerous. But how about the feeling of not being safe in your own home, or having to look twice around every corner? That should be enough of a crime, no matter how dangerous these people are.

    It’s just all so very frustrating. I feel for your situation and hope everything turns out okay.

  7. Stella says:

    Thanks everyone. If I can ‘t have Farrell, I’ll just have to get motion sensors.

  8. Marleyfan says:

    Hope I didn’t come off as disrespectful, just having a little Friday fun. Anyway,

    A little research shows that this behavior is a gross misdemeanor for the first offense, and felony for the second. Police should have responded ASAP!

  9. WW says:

    Marleyfan’s right. Keep calling your local PD. The good news is: when the weather’s cooler, the masturbators will probably stay inside. Any new updates on this situation?