Next steps after mugging and unwelcome kiss?
August 11, 2011 10:10 AM   Subscribe

So I was just more or less forcibly kissed by a street thief. Not sure if I was just assaulted, or the hapless victim of a charming rogue. Are there steps I should take about, eg, STDs (HIV rate here is pushing 35%)? Any other street safety steps you can recommend? Better travel insurance?

I don't know how shaken up I am about this. Am more embarrassed and ashamed at the minute (hence anonymity). Earlier today I was robbed, essentially, by a group of street kids (up to/including young women--I'm a guy), who swarmed me, took the glasses of my face, and held them for ransom to keep me from running. They took $60 worth of stuff out of my pockets--worth much less than my glasses.

Then one lady stuck around and demanded I take cash out of the ATM for her or she'd break my glasses. I managed to convince her that this wasn't going to happen (I didn't have my debit card on me, for one--thank goodness). Then she said she'd give them back for a kiss. I thought I could manage a peck on the cheek, but she went for a couple of full French kisses. I probably should have resisted, but a) I don't have a violent (or non-brittle and birdlike) bone in my body and b) I still wanted my glasses--replacing them would be a nontrivial cost for me.

Anyway, I don't know how to process this. I am a little shaken, I guess. And I don't know whether I should brush this off as a disturbing but relatively harmless episode or as something I should take more seriously. I certainly think it would take me a while before this could enter my stable of embarrassing-stories-that-I-can-still-tell-about-myself. It cuts to a sort of core of non-manliness (I know, I know) in my character that I guess I'm still not comfortable with--sharing here sort of helps, I guess. And this is a very small town. I'm sure I'll see these thieves again on the street during my time here.

About the STDs: I'm embarrassed to be asking, as I know that kissing is a very very minor vector for HIV, and thankfully I don't have any cuts or open sores on/in my mouth that I know of. But are there steps I should be taking anyway--for oral herpes, for instance? (Washing my mouth out with soap has occurred to me.)

Finally: I know I shouldn't have been walking after sundown downtown, but I was literally 60 ft into a 200 ft journey. But are there good tips for dealing with this sort of thing, or is avoidance the only solution? These kids really checked everywhere on me that I might have had valuables--this was no subtle pickpocketing.

And I would be grateful if someone would recommend cheap travel insurance I could buy from abroad that would cover prescription glasses. I'm thinking next time I'd like to let them keep the glasses--if I knew they were going to be covered. (My home country is the US, if that matters.)

I appreciate any advice you can give. And if that advice is just to suck it up and thank my stars that there wasn't a knife involved, or that I'm not in a more vulnerable category and that these weren't older and more vicious criminals (ie: that this wasn't anything like someone being raped by a mugger)--I can deal with that.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is definitely assault, and I'm sorry you had to go through this. You might want to e-mail a mod and update the question with where you are -- at least the country/region so people can be specific about actions you can take in a particular jurisdiction.
posted by Kimberly at 10:13 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely report the crime, if this happened in the US. I don't know how to address the health risks, but don't worry about your manliness - no one can fight a crowd. You did what you could.

In the future, you can minimize your chances of this happening by not walking around by yourself in non-well-lit areas and always looking like you're paying attention to your surroundings.
posted by ignignokt at 10:28 AM on August 11, 2011

This sounds really upsetting and bizarre. I would call the cops immediately. You were robbed and the unique MO of these kids will surely help catch them.

Sure, yes, wash your mouth. Gargle with diluted hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash if you have it. But know that there are ZERO documented cases of HIV transmission through kissing. The great majority of humans already have the oral herpes virus so you're fairly unlikely to be impacted on that score either. The most likely illness you could get from this is a cold.

I'm really sorry this happened to you. I'm sure it feels terrible.
posted by serazin at 10:40 AM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Regarding STDs: your risk of acquiring anything is pretty minimal and I wouldn't worry.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:42 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

OP says his home country is the US.

I'm sorry this happened to you, and I'm sorry you're blaming yourself ("shouldn't have been walking after sundown downtown"? We'd collectively crucify anyone who said such a thing to a female victim of this kind of assault). I hope no one tells you to suck it up and get over it. The fact that you're a man, and this was done to you by a woman, will inevitably mean that some people will probably treat this like a joke, especially if you're in an area full of machismo or whatever the local version of it is, but I assure you, you were assaulted.

Agree with Kimberly that if we know what area this happened in, people will be better able to help you with figuring out where to report this/what steps to take.
posted by Gator at 10:42 AM on August 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Long term, just for your own mental health, you could consider taking a boxing, martial arts, jiu jitsu, or self defense class. Not sure what's available in your small town but in my experience taking boxing lessons and an MMA class, they are super fun, a great workout, and give me a sense of confidence and safety - even though I am very clear that I am unlikely to ever use these skills in real life.
posted by serazin at 10:43 AM on August 11, 2011

As someone who is lost without his glasses, I can totally sympathize, and I'm a big scary looking due.

It's ok to feel how you feel about this and being upset, angry, frustrated and even scared are totally normal. By all means, report it, because it's illegal and you were harmed

One thing you need to consider though is a possible repeat of this. You say it's a small town, so the kids may have been watching for you and now that they know you have some cash, you may be considered an easy mark. Yet you don't have violent bone in your body and more than likely some of those kids figured it out during the encounter. So I'm sorry to say, you probably do need to take some steps to be more careful or watchful in the future. This is totally unfair and not right, but from a practical point of view it might be what you need to do.

You don't mention where you were going, but if it was to visit another person, call ahead and let them know you're coming or ask to have them look out the window to watch your journey. A loud electronic alarm would be good, something you easily slip into your hand and activate if attacked.

If you already aren't, try being more aware of your surroundings as you walk, keep a mental tally of who's on the street, where they are and where they're moving.

Get a cheap cellphone and use that to talk on as your walking. You don't have to talking to anyone, just be speaking into the phone, sort of chronicling your journey.

Also, get in touch with friends or even neighbors. Even someone you've rarely spoken to is bound to be sympathetic and willing to listen and offer advice.

This happened, luckily you weren't harmed, so try to learn what you can from it what you.

Also remember that this wasn't your fault and you did nothing wrong. Seriously.

Good luck.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is truly awful. I don't care if you're male or female, this would traumatize me for a good long time. I hope you call the police, for one. Two, do *not* blame yourself, as this sort of situation is overwhelming. Three, the only thing you can do on a street is be paranoid and try to keep obstacles between you and potential threats. I'm sure a lack of paranoia is not going to be your problem in future, but certainly "walking around alone at night" is not asking for anything at all. The only thing I would avoid is feeling worried about looking foolish. Too many people will *not yell* and *not run* and avoid looking too obvious about avoiding potential threats because they don't want to look like a jerk. It is better for a stranger to think you're crazy/weird than to be a victim.

If it is legal to carry pepper spray wherever you are, I would have some, and I would carry it *in my hand* during future excursions in this area. Also, practice using it a few times, and find out if you have to replace it after one-shot. Wind direction matters. (Also, don't wipe your eyes afterward with your shooting hand. I did this on an el train and thought I'd die. lol)

Personally, while self-defense classes are nice and all, and they may help you, my main goals in living and working in potentially dangerous situations is to keep all possible threats at a distance. If this means not going down a crowded street of drunks, so be it. If it means crossing a street numerous times, or even walking in the street to keep a line of cars between me and suspicious looking groups, I will do it.

All this said, sometimes you are caught, and there is not much you can do. You got away with a loss of valuables and are not physically damaged. You also saved your glasses, but I would be thinking about the trade-off there, in retrospect. Sure, your glasses are important. I probably would have done the same thing--being poor enough myself not to be able to replace such items would make me put up with a lot. But in exchange for personal safety, *no object can not be sacrificed.* Nothing! When I was driving a cab, I trained my mind every day to understand that my wad of cash was a throwaway item in case of threat. I would not argue for it, fight for it, or bargain for it. I would instead take that wad, throw it at the offender and run like my life depended on it. You don't wait around to find out what else they have in mind.
posted by RedEmma at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

I was assaulted, including forced to french kiss somebody in a mugging/kidnapping incident. I was 16 years old.

Something that helped me to get over it was to think that that person had to stoop that low to get something from me. He wanted my beauty (or youth or something) and he only got the crumbs. If I had met the guy in a party, he wouldn't have got my attention, much less a kiss.

It was not your fault and you are not less of a man. You could have beat the crap out of her, but you didn't because you are a gentleman who wanted to solve this incident peacefully.
posted by clearlydemon at 11:11 AM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, I would recommend *against* what Brandon Blatcher said about talking on your cellphone. It is seen by muggers as "victim is distracted". What protection, after all, can your friend offer through a phone?
posted by RedEmma at 11:11 AM on August 11, 2011

And if that advice is just to suck it up and thank my stars that there wasn't a knife involved, or that I'm not in a more vulnerable category and that these weren't older and more vicious criminals (ie: that this wasn't anything like someone being raped by a mugger)--I can deal with that.

I don't think there are very many people here who would tell you that (or at least I hope there aren't), and anyone who would is a terrible person. A group of people assaulted you, in what sound to be pretty bewildering circumstances. That's a bad thing and it's perfectly reasonable for you to feel bad about it. You'll feel better about it when you feel better about it: You're allowed. I don't know if anything like this has happened to you before, but if it hasn't, I imagine the world might feel like a different place now. It isn't really, though. While I don't know how safe or unsafe your town really is, that's something you should try to figure out without giving this incident more weight than it actually needs to have. Who knows, you might just have been unlucky today, and this might be the last really bad thing that happens to you while you're there.

It's absolutely not your fault that this happened. Please don't blame yourself for being downtown after dark, or feel embarrassed for having some questions about STDS now, and especially don't feel ashamed because you couldn't fight off a whole group of attackers, in what sounds like a strange place, at this one particular instant in your life. The people who assaulted you are the only ones who are supposed to be ashamed! You did not do anything wrong, and you did not deserve this. Also, it sounds like you came away without being physically injured, and that's good. Perhaps it was the way you handled yourself; perhaps you're in a place where the muggers are bold but not brutal. Some places are like that. It sucks but there are scarier alternatives.

I wish I could tell you what the most helpful way to frame this incident for yourself would be, but I don't know what that is. All I can say is I'm very sorry this happened to you, it's not OK that it did, it wasn't your fault, and to hell with anyone who would tell you otherwise. If there's anything you can do to make yourself feel safer in the future (like taking up boxing, as serazin suggests, or practising extra awareness of your surroundings, or going places in groups when you can), do it. If there's anyone you can be with or call now who will make you feel better and safer, reach out to them. Talk to the police where you are - yes, there were girls involved, but it sounds like it was a group that also included young men, so even a very backwards department could quite possibly take it seriously. (If they're still sceptical, it might help if you tell them you just couldn't hit a girl.) Best wishes to you, and I hope you feel much better before too long.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:20 AM on August 11, 2011

Would it make you feel better if you used an eyeglass or sunglass strap from now on? It would make it harder for someone to just grab your glasses off your face. Yea, it's dorky, but it might make you feel better about the chances of it happening in the future.

RE: travel insurance, I used World Nomads (look on the Lonely Planet site) when I went to Greece. I got salt water inside my camera, and they paid for the cost of repairing it, pretty much no questions asked except for the repair bill and the original camera receipt. So, if you know you have a receipt at home for the glasses you would probably be ok. I think you could buy the insurance now, but I don't know for sure. They are more flexible than most on dates and things.

Next time, get a few pairs from Zenni or wherever is cheap online.
posted by cabingirl at 11:27 AM on August 11, 2011

I don't have a tremendous amount of practical advice, but:

Yes, you were sexually assaulted. Men are also victims of sexual assault, and not infrequently. I'm very sorry this happened to you. It's normal to feel embarrassed and ashamed, but what happened is not your fault and doesn't change who you are.

The risk of contracting HIV (someone upthread says "0%") that it's not worth the also-small risk to take the HIV prophylactic. You should be tested in a few months, but everyone should have periodic HIV tests.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:18 PM on August 11, 2011

Just to be more clear about my boxing advice, I only offer it as a strategy to help rebuild a sense of confidence. In reality, even if I was confronted by only one mugger/attacker, I would absolutely give over my wallet and/or run. I can barely conjure a mental scenario where I would actually try to hit someone on the street. But for whatever reason, taking boxing lessons just makes me feel better and more confident. I now feel I could hit someone, even as I also know I probably never will.
posted by serazin at 12:34 PM on August 11, 2011

I am so sorry this happen to you, and I can imagine that the genders involved makes this especially confusing. Whatever you're feeling, and those feelings as they change - is normal and okay. Anger, embarrassment, weeping, sleeplessness, helplessness, rage - its all okay (except shame. Shame is an utterly useless emotion. I encourage you to swap it for indignation.)

As to the glasses, I would encourage you to take up the suggestion of having a spare pair from a cheap supplier. Glasses get broken all the time and if you're blind, you need to have an extra pair.

As to the STD issue, you're going to be OK. You do not have a risk for anything beyond those of random teenaged snogging. We're talking very marginal risk. You have every right to wonder, but don't start Googling up obscure statistics. You will not make yourself feel better.

When you return to the US, you may wish to contact your local victim support group or Male Survivors, whichever feels more appropriate for how you're feeling. The reality is that a lot of men don't talk about being the victims of violent or sexual crimes, so there's a danger you may end up feeling isolated when the statistics and the stories tell you you shouldn't. In no way are you alone. If you need help, please get it.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:32 PM on August 11, 2011

I am so sorry.

I don't think "thanking your lucky stars" that this wasn't worse is useful at all. The worst thing that's ever happened to you is the worst thing that's ever happened to you, regardless of how much worse it could have been. And even if this isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to you, it's still a Bad Thing, and you deserve to process it as a Bad Thing, rather than comparing it to every other worse thing that could have happened.

My own experience of sexual assault has been that it's just so freaking bizarre. There's a surreal quality to it, a certain "this can't be happening, are you kidding me?" Your experience sounds disorienting and upsetting before it turned sexual as well.

Be kind to yourself.
posted by endless_forms at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2011

Maybe consider contact lenses
..and realize you did what you had to this time to get your specs back.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:05 PM on August 11, 2011

Yes, you were assaulted. Expecting to walk unassaulted is not stupid. The sheer vulnerability of being without glasses would absolutely contribute to how you are feeling and what happened as well. Report it if you can, rinse with mouthwash if you can, and allow yourself to feel however it is you feel about it. I guy recommend a second pair of glasses (I never realized how much anxiety I carried about losing/breaking mine until I had more than one pair - I now keep a set at work, a set in the car and several at home, all thanks to zennioptical and my own paranoia about losing or breaking them). Ringing with an expected time due is my usual MO and it helps from a non-assault accident perspective as well.

I am sorry this happened to you.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:09 PM on August 11, 2011

Check out the No Nonsense Self-Defense section on robbery. Lots of good advice on how to avoid putting yourself in the position where a robber can make you their victim.

I'd also look into what signals you're giving off as you walk down the street. How do yo carry yourself, your deportment. Do you give off a "I'm meek and easy prey" vibe? Are you oblivious to your surroundings to the point where you don't notice the wolf-pack circling just at your peripheral vision? Were you walking through a fringe area that favors the robber over his /their victim?

Because they scoped you out and came to the decision we can get away with victimizing him. If they looked at you and thought you would go ape-shit on them and start breaking bones (or, the better option, were aware enough to turn and run before they could close off your escape route) they might have tried easier prey.

I'm not saying you need to give off an "I'm a badass" vibe (especially if you're not one, because that WILL get you fucked up). But definitely cultivate a "Someone else will be easier to victimize" vibe.

Give some thought to what they saw when they sized you up and saw a non-threatening victim. Work on changing that consciously. If you're brittle and bird-like, push-ups etc can help with that. They do wonders for the self-esteem and posture as well.

But awareness and shoes you can solidly run in are always your best first-line of defense. Especially against a group. Throw a wad of small bills behind you as you run.

I'm gonna go with the suck-it-up advice re: the kiss. Your pride was what she wounded, and that's what she was going for. One for the "ouch" column.

But if you focus on the wound rather than preparing for the next time the predators start sizing you up... as Zen teacher Cheri Huber once wrote, "What you practice is what you have."

Practice your awareness, strength, and sprinting with the odd chain-link fence climb. Because then, that's what you'll have.

best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:18 PM on August 11, 2011

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