Okay, I’ve gotten over my trauma, so I can write about this.
Last month, on March 24, 2018, I attended a poetry event at Warung Buncit, South Jakarta. The event finished at sometime around ten that Saturday night.
I went to the nearest Trans-Jakarta bus shelter to wait for my ride back home. There was an old man standing there, also waiting for the bus.
At first, everything was quiet and okay. We didn’t talk to each other, just two total strangers. Then, completely out of the blue, the old man grinned at me. He looked like he was adjusting his trousers, but when I saw his hands started unbuttoning them…
Oh, not tonight, I cursed silently. Not ever, you creep!
I didn’t waste time standing there. Turning around, I rushed for the stairs and back to the ticket booth.
“Sir?” I called out, my heart pounding. It was eleven already, but I was sure someone was still there. “Hello? Sir, a little help here?”
I was glad that the creep wasn’t following me, but I still didn’t want to risk it. I knew I could still fight him off alone any other day, but I also needed another witness.
Besides, a man like that would still definitely do the same thing to other women when he had the chance. Not all were brave enough to report or fight back.
“Yes, ma’am?” replied a uniformed guy from inside the booth. When I told him about what had almost happened, he quickly locked the booth and returned to the scene with me.
“An old man?” he asked. When I nodded, he said, “I saw him earlier on cctv and wondered how odd, but then you were already upstairs.”
“Please.” Okay, I actually hate begging, but I had to at that time. “Could you please just accompany me there, at least until my bus arrives or he leaves first? I don’t want to be all alone with him.”
So, the uniformed guy did as promised. The sick old creep looked disappointed when he saw me not alone anymore. He tried to make a small talk with the staff. I kept quiet while watching him cautiously.
I heaved a sigh of relief when the old creep was finally off on a bus heading south. While waiting for my bus, I talked to the uniformed staff for a while. It turned out that his name was Jaelani. This Depok resident, laid-back and mild-mannered, told me that he was just doing his job.
“I actually saw what happened,” he repeated. “We take reports like this very seriously, all for the convenience of all passengers – especially female ones at night.”
Then Jaelani went on about another girl running to him in tears one quiet day. It turned out that some young dude had rubbed his penis against her on the bus. My jaw dropped.
“A lot of reports on sexual harassment on the bus, ma’am,” he explained. “It makes no difference, either day or night, crowded or quiet. Mini skirts or whether the woman is all covered up.” He shook his head in dismay and digust. “If the guy’s really sick in the head, those things don’t matter. You did the right thing by reporting him.”
“Yeah, although I was skeptical at first,” I admitted. “You know how many people will simply judge the woman instead for being in a public place alone, especially at night.”
“Ah, people are rubbish,” Jaelani scoffed. “We never know, she could be working late or other errands or have no choice. They should focus on the predator instead of the victim when it comes to finding faults.”
When my bus finally arrived, I thanked Jaelani again before hopping on. I returned home that night with a little bit of hope.
Hopefully, more people are aware of what’s been the real issue for centuries…