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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com .