A man took an upskirt photo of me. Here’s my warning so it doesn’t happen to you.

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(Note: This is part of our First Person series and submitted from a reader.)

It was surprisingly pleasant weather for March, and any excuse to get out of the office was a good one, so I accepted. We walked into the drugstore and headed straight for the greeting card aisle near the back.

I wandered aimlessly, lagging behind my coworker while she looked for an amusing St. Patrick’s Day card. I noticed him pretty quickly.

He was really tall and hard to miss. We passed each other a few times as we all wandered up and down the aisle.

Then it happened.

He was kneeling, pretending to look at some cards on the bottom shelf, seemingly harmless. But he wasn’t. His arm was outstretched a little too far, with his phone placed carefully and his finger on the capture button.

If I hadn’t been paying attention, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

As I passed him I looked straight down, wondering if I should be suspicious. I couldn’t reason the feeling away; my gut knew something was wrong. I kept a close eye on him for the next few minutes, even making eye contact as he made his way to the other end of the aisle and lifted the phone to study his work.

He saw me, and he knew that I saw him.

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I felt extremely violated; taken advantage of in a public place. I tried to shake the feeling all day, but I couldn’t concentrate.

I went straight to the police station after work to report the incident. It was a couple months until they caught him. Apparently he was recorded doing the same thing in the same place to a different woman.

I got the call at work and a sense of relief washed over me. I hoped that being arrested and charged would deter him from doing this to other women in Charlotte.

victim-paperwork-charlotte-courthouse

“Peeping underneath or through clothing”; a misdemeanor.

The sentencing happened six months later. Both the other victim and I attended the sentencing and gave statements to the court.

I often feel petty when I think or talk about the incident. On the spectrum of sexual crimes, this is not nearly as disturbing and painful as others. But crime of any sort is not okay.

I thought I would feel closure, but I’m always wary when I’m in public space. Every time I see a woman in a dress riding the light-rail, standing in line, or walking down the street, I wonder if the thought even crosses her mind. Does she worry like I do? Does she pay special attention to her surroundings? Has it happened to her, maybe unknowingly?

Ladies, pay attention and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Men, don’t partake in this invasive, repulsive, and illegal violation of a person’s privacy and dignity.

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