SaraKay Smullens
Jul 26, 2017 · 5 min read

The Menace and Preponderance of Gropers: A Train Ride from Hell

A train holiday, long anticipated, turned into a nightmare. I write to warn you, wherever you are, to be on alert.

According to Wikipedia, groping is fondling or touching another person in an unwelcome sexual way by using hands. Other definitions include use of other parts of the body, and movements, excluding intercourse. Groping is a sickening expression where immature men violate a woman in order to express power and control over her.

Those who take pleasure in this kind of domination usually see it as fun, a game. As a clinical social worker and family therapist for over 30 years, I have learned that in their interaction with others gropers alternate between being babies and bullies. They do not conduct themselves like adults. Further, they fear adult sexual intimacy and connection.

Every woman has heard about groping, but hearing does not mean an understanding of the sickening reaction one has when it happens. I speak from experience.

It had been a very demanding several months for my husband and me. I was delighted when my husband suggested that time surrounded by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies would be the perfect holiday for us. I loved his further suggestion that we contact a highly regarded Canadian railroad line to coordinate our travels. We planned for two days of relaxed travel on the train, where breakfast and lunch would be served, and where late each afternoon after traveling we would have time to check into our hotel, tour together, and share dinner at two different points of interest. Our plan after two days was to depart the train and continue the trip as planned.

Each car of the train chosen was a private entity. It was dual level — the upper level was to designed to see the beauty of this area, and the lower held the dining room where meals were served, as well as lavatories, and a small area outside that connected the cars, where one could find fresh air.

From the moment we entered our car in early morning, drinks were available, and offered and offered, as they were at each meal. Traveling in our car was an exceedingly loud, large group, one that had just completed a cruise. The men grew louder and more and more vulgar as they drank, and no staff member curbed their drinking or addressed their behavior. My husband and I handled the vulgarity by doing all we could to tune them out and enjoy the exquisite scenery, telling ourselves that hard working people were on holiday and trying to relax.

Just after lunch on our first day our train broke down, which would delay moving on for three hours. We had also been delayed earlier because we shared the track with cargo trains, which throughout our trip took precedent over those with tourists. In some cars air conditioning was knocked out. Our air conditioning remained.

As I stood against the petition protecting the cabin from the stairs, looking out of the window (turned toward the seats and far away from the stairs), one of travelers coming up the stairs pushed hard against my back, and I lost my balance. He began to message my back, and I tried to scream my husband’s name, but as hard as I tried the words would not come. He then grabbed me from behind — I will not go into detail about his hideous actions, other than I was able to stop him, mustering all the strength in my body to turn to face my attacker. However, he was accomplished, and able to rush by with his back to me so that I could not see his face clearly. I knew that he was part of the drunken group traveling with us, but that was all. At that point I began to feel exceedingly ill.

The soundless incident was over in a matter of minutes. However, I would not respond to my husband’s insistence that I tell him what was wrong until we reached our designated hotel at about 9:30 p.m. after 13 hours on the train. Furious, my husband was determined to confront my attacker, but I knew I could not point out who he was with any assuredness.

Very early the next morning after boarding the train we told the staff what happened, expecting certain actions to be taken, including a limit to the group’s liquor availability. Not well enough to go to either meal, my head and stomach expressing what my voice could not the day before, I insisted that my husband enjoy breakfast and lunch in the dining car while I rested and slept on both of our seats. A kind attendant brought me a blanket. Our part of the car emptied for lunch as I rested. (We went to the dining car in two shifts. While one shift dined, the other was served refreshments — drinks provided at request — until it was their turn.) Staff was close at hand.

I was awakened, however, by rude and lewd comments made as one in the group passed me, and then by another who touched my leg covered by a blanket as he rushed by laughing. “How dare you!” I said each time as the men bounded rapidly down the stairs giggling to each other like children, backs to me. After these incidents, I became violently ill, and remained so for two more days.

Why do I share this? I want you to realize that this kind of violation can happen anywhere, any time, to be on the alert, and to be prepared to do what I could not — scream out. I cannot suggest that you slap, hit or kick in response, especially if no one else is near you, as immature men like the three I have described could easily explode into physical violence if their control is threatened — and then swear a woman provoked the incident. In a more populated area, however, there may be less risk for a well placed kick as you call out for help.

I have asked myself repeatedly why I was unable to scream for help, alerting others, after being pushed. I can only tell you that I was in shock, immobilized, and completely unprepared for an attack: I turned to face the perpetrator, and in seconds, he was gone. No, I was not raped. However, I was violated, and I think that many of my reactions have parallels to reactions of rape victims: I had great trouble realizing what had truly happened to me. Part of me wanted to believe that I had imagined it.

Once we were off the train, my husband and I were able to begin to enjoy the beauty of the rest of our travels. Upon our return home, I wrote to the CEO of the train-tour company that booked our travels, told him of my horrific experience, and voiced deep concerns in areas of awareness, care and protection offered to patrons. He has not responded.

Thrive Global

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    SaraKay Smullens

    Written by

    social worker, best selling author who coined the phrase, “emotional sense of direction,” sees this as essential in navigating life’s slippery slopes.

    Thrive Global

    More than living. Thriving.