Reporter's Notebook -- Lolita Harper

Lolita Harper

I had just finished three rounds of shadow boxing Tuesday and was

feeling good about how my left cross was coming along.

It was just before 10 p.m., and I needed to get home.

Enduring the friendly teasing from some of the guys at the gym, I

grabbed my workout towel and jump rope, put on my sweatshirt and headed

out the door.

"You're so tough," my friend Eric said.

"Better believe it," I replied.

Little did I know in less than five minutes I wouldn't feel so

powerful.

I had just turned the corner of 19th and Park streets when I heard a

bicycle behind me. When I turned, I saw a teenage guy sitting there, and

it seemed he was waiting for me to get out of the way so he could ride by

me.

Ignoring him, I walked farther into the parking lot. But he didn't

zoom past me like I had expected. I took a couple more steps. By the time

I decided to turn around again, he was already beside me, grabbing me.

Without going into details, I can best describe his action as a very

unwelcome and disgusting advance. Before I could register what had just

happened, he rode away. Coward.

I yelled a few choice words at him and then shrugged it off and walked

to my car. With each step, however, I became increasingly upset.

Part of me wanted to drop all my gym equipment and run after him. I

played sports all my life and I was pretty fast, I told myself. I bet I

could catch him. Then I could show him my wonderful left hook I'd been

working on, and maybe even throw in a bonus upper cut or two.

But clear thinking prevailed, and by the time I got to my car I

decided I would call the police. I wasn't physically hurt, but I was --

at the risk of sounding cliche -- violated.

When the police arrived, they told me the same thing happened a couple

of nights before, in the same parking lot.

Costa Mesa Police Officer Jeff Graham was extremely polite, sensitive

and helpful. He never hinted that I was overreacting, although I

questioned myself periodically while he was taking his report. Graham

even described it as a "sexual assault."

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't hysterical or in tears. I was almost

laughing, but it was one of those uncomfortable laughs when you're not

quite sure what other emotion to call up at the time.

That night when I got home, I realized what upset me the most. That

little punk made me feel powerless.

All night, I kept replaying the event over in my mind. And each time

-- just like in the movies -- I would have some sort of split-second

reflex where I knocked him off his bike and detained him until police

could arrive.

Each imaginary scenario would have a different sort of take down --

some even involved a chase -- but all resulted in a sense of satisfaction

that I had brought my assailant to justice.

But those were just dreams. Wishful thinking.

There was nothing I could do about it. He was so cowardly -- taking

advantage of the fact that I was alone in a dark parking lot.

The most I could do was let the police know and leave it to them to

catch him. It's not that I lack faith in the city's enforcement

capabilities, but I know it means more to me to catch this guy than it

might to them.

What I really wanted to do was confront this kid and ask him what his

problem is.

Was he just some little pervert, or was he seriously disturbed? I also

worry that the thrill of getting away with a seemingly harmless crime

could tempt him to commit more serious offenses in the future.

Hopefully, he will get caught. Not because I have a vengeful spirit

(although I do have to admit I want him to suffer a little) but because

he needs to understand the severity of his actions.

He needs to know that it's not a harmless action, that women should

not be treated in that manner and that his raging hormones do not give

him a free license to grope people.

* Lolita Harper covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)

574-4275 or by e-mail at o7 lolita.harper@latimes.comf7 .

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