Last week I got the opportunity to spend five days in Paris with my best friend. As we are both college students, we sought out restaurants that had good food and drinks but that also wouldn't break the bank. This landed us in the Pigalle neighborhood, famously known as the location of the Moulin Rouge and infamously known as the red-light district of Paris.
The first night we spent in this neighborhood we didn't have any problems. However, the second evening is when things took a turn for the worst. We had found a cute restaurant that had really good happy hour deals, so of course, we got some drinks there before heading to dinner. After dinner, around 9 p.m., we went to catch the metro back to where we were staying. As I walked onto the train, a man whispered something in French in my ear. As I do not speak French, I laughed because I assumed he was just being innocently flirty. I did not feel that there was any cause for alarm.
So my friend and I ended up having to stand as the metro was extremely crowded. I was facing away from the man, but my friend had a perfect view of him. She informed me that he kept moving closer and closer to me and blatantly staring at me. I turned around to see, but I thought it was a different guy who had whispered in my ear, and the guy I thought she was talking about was a couple people over standing by the door not paying attention to me. Given that, I was not worried.
However, moments later the guy who had actually whispered in my ear suddenly grabbed my butt and began whispering in my year again. Because I don't speak French, I told him to "f**k off" and tried to exhibit a strong demeanor. My friend and I then moved spots and found a seat far from him. However, nothing that I did seemed to deter him. He followed us to the seats and sat directly across from us. There was only one seat so I was sitting on my friend's lap, and there were two other men besides the one following me. He then began speaking in French to me again while staring at me with an ominous predatory gaze. He then began to touch my legs. Even after I hit his hands away and told him to leave me alone, he continued to try to touch me.
The man sitting next to us simply got up and moved seats. My friend looked at the other man sitting across from us and asked him to help us, he looked scared and replied: "I don't know what to do."
The guy wouldn't stop touching me, so my friend and I got off the metro at the next stop and were relieved to see that the guy did not get up. We went couple doors down and got back on the train so we could make it home. When we sat back down and looked out the window, we saw the guy did actually follow us off and was looking around for us outside. The train doors finally closed after what seemed like hours, and the severity of the situation really hit me.
That night back at our cabin it took me hours to fall asleep as I just kept seeing that man's eyes and hearing his voice. My mind was consumed by the fear that he would show up to the cabin. I felt better the next day, but it changed my perspective on men I encounter. Whenever a man gets too close or looks at me for too long, my heart begins to race and I stop breathing.
My situation could have ended a lot differently and I am thankful to have made it away from that man safely, but nobody should have to go through something like that.