Abducted in Wuhan: Sexual Harassment in China

It was almost midnight as I threw my heavy backpack in a taxi outside Wuhan’s international airport. Exhausted from a long weekend of networking at TBEX, I slumped into the back seat. My taxi driver, a young man in his thirties, asked for my address with a genuine smile. I had to be back at the airport at 7 the next morning, so I directed the driver to my cheap hotel near the airport. Only a mile away, I figured the ride wouldn’t be too expensive.

Little did I know, taxi costs would be the least of my worries.

As we sped down the highway, my driver casually asked me questions about my recent trip. Why was I staying so far outside the city? What was I doing in Thailand? Where did I work in Beijing? I happily answered him, as I do with all taxi drivers. I’ve found chatting with cab drivers to be one of the best ways to practice my Chinese.

Sexual harassment ChinaSlowly, things started to get awkward. First, he started complimenting me on my beauty, saying it “shocked” and “distracted” him. I’m used to this kind of stuff from taxi drivers in China, and I usually change the subject or pretend not to understand. Refusing to let it go, this driver opened a voice translation app on his phone, forcing me to read his inappropriate compliments in English.

As I bent forward to read his phone, I noticed the meter wasn’t on. I quickly yelled at him to start it, worried he was trying to scam me. My driver refused to turn it on, waving away my concerns with his long fingernailed hands. Berating myself for not noticing sooner, I figured I could just argue him down to an acceptable price when we arrived at my hotel since we would probably be there soon anyway.

But we didn’t arrive soon.

sexual assault China We drove on and on down deserted, tree-lined roads. Every once and a while we’d stop and he’d lean into the backseat to “have another look at the address” while breathing cigarette smoke on my face. As time went on, I began to get more and more nervous. I had no idea where we were going, and I felt extremely uncomfortable with my driver’s constant flirting.

Eventually we turned down a highway road full of construction. He took us down a dead end, bringing the car to a sudden halt. I placed a hand on my purse, ready to grab it and run. What if he has friends waiting here for me?! It was pitch black. I couldn’t see a thing and there were so many places to hide. Tears welled in my eyes as I began to panic.sexual harassment in China He slowly put the car in reverse and I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Where are we going?!” I asked in what I hoped was a casual tone.

I’m going to sell you!!!” he exclaimed. “HAHAHA just kidding.”

I didn’t laugh. He repeated the joke twice.

We continued down deserted roads, as he causally asked me my age and other details about my life. I tried not to panic, but my anxiety was through the roof.

What should have been a 15-minute drive had turned into almost an hour of traveling down deserted roads.

assault China Eventually we reached civilization and I almost cried in relief. He’s not going to kill me.

We turned down a random road and my driver suddenly stopped, leaning into the backseat.

“Kiss me.” he demanded in Chinese.

“What?!” I exclaimed.

“Kiss. Kiss me,” he repeated, now in English.

“NO.” I all but yelled as I grabbed my bags, preparing to jump out of the cab.

sexual harassment foreigners China “Okay, okay,” he laughed, “I’ll take you to your hotel.” He pulled the car further up the block and stopped. “It’s here! The price should be 50 yuan or more, but because you’re so beautiful, you can pay me 30 if you give me your We Chat.”

I threw him a 50 and proceeded to get out of the car.

He laughed, and handed me a 20 yuan note back, asking for my We Chat yet again. I refused as I grabbed my bags from the backseat.

“This is such a small hotel!” he exclaimed. “You won’t be safe here.”

Little did he know that staring at the blinking lights of my tiny hotel was the safest I’d felt in the last hour.

China women's safety China’s not as safe as I thought it was

I’ve been in China on and off for about 2.5 years now. When I first arrived, I couldn’t help but feel much safer here than back home. I never felt nervous walking around at night. I never felt intimidated by Chinese men. Frankly, it was a relief to move to Beijing after four years of living in crime-ridden DC.

The longer I stay in China the more I realize I was 100% wrong. I’m an idiot for thinking I’m safer here than back home. China isn’t worse than the US, but it sure as hell isn’t better either.

Just one week ago I was cornered in a small room in the mall where I work while waiting for the staff elevator. About eight Chinese guys from the local hair salon blocked the door yelling catcalls at me. At first I was mildly annoyed, but when one of them tried to touch my hair, I literally shoved him and pushed past all of them, running for the stairs. Tears welled in my eyes as the group laughed at me.

What an awesome joke.

female solo travel safety It’s not just me

I almost didn’t believe it when many of the female expat bloggers I follow started posting about sexual harassment in China. Apparently a few of them were having issues with a fellow member of their writing group stalking, harassing and touching them inappropriately.

I almost died of shock when I read that one expat blogger was almost gang raped in Shenzhen. A group of men tried to pull her into an alley in broad daylight, as the people around her stopped to watch and refused to help (which I’m sure many of you know is typical in China). Thankfully, she was able to get away, however many of her Chinese friends, including her Chinese boyfriend, didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

Well… nothing happened right? Why are you so upset?!

China women's safety It’s not just foreign women

That leads me to my next point. It’s not just foreign women dealing with these issues. Many news reports are stating sexual harassment and assault is on the rise in China. From female factory workers to domestic violence, sexual crimes and misogyny are widespread in the People’s Republic. A few Chinese women’s rights activists have even been thrown in jail for peaceful protests and organizing AIDS walks.

It’s not just China

I’m not writing this to scare you all away from taking taxis in China. I’ve taken hundreds cabs here and 99% of them have been fine. I just don’t want any of you girls to have unrealistic expectations that China is way safer than America, because it’s not.

I was actually a bit surprised when almost every guy I talked to about my taxi experience made some sort of negative comment about China. This isn’t just a China problem, this is an “everywhere” problem. Some of you might remember the time I was followed home from work in DC by a man I actually thought might kill me.

China safety women It’s been a rough few days

For some strange reason I’ve been unusually upset since arriving back in China. To be honest, I just feel exhausted.

Yesterday when a misunderstanding with a co-worker made me burst out in tears, I thought I was just having a “Bad China Day”. I was annoyed that I haven’t had hot water for two weeks, and getting it fixed has been near impossible. I figured my frustration with the water situation was making me unusually sensitive.

Today, I’ve realized it’s something else.

I finally have hot water, everything with my co-workers is fine… nothing is wrong. But for some reason I feel like I’m constantly two steps away from a meltdown. I started crying at work three times today for absolutely no reason. I feel like I’m suffering from some sort of minor PTSD after this taxi incident and I have absolutely no idea why.

I’ve tried to tell a few people how I feel, but most girls have a stories much worse than mine. “I was grabbed by a taxi driver in China“, or “my friend had a Chinese taxi driver actually try to rape her.” Heck, worse things have happened to me too!

women safety china I feel like a crazy person for being this upset. Nothing happened. He didn’t touch me. He didn’t assault me. He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t even actually try to kidnap me. I’m sure this cab diver went home and had a good laugh about flirting with a white girl.

I think the worst part was the fear: feeling helpless and out of control. It’s one thing to be groped on the street, but when you’re in the backseat of a car going god knows where, there’s nothing you can really do. I think I’ve realized that I have way less control over my personal safety than I thought I did, and it’s scary.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I’m telling you all this story. I guess a part of me wants to make sure that girls in China realize that China isn’t this a safe haven for women that a lot of us think it is. I think I also want guys to be aware of what we have to deal with on a regular basis.

These last few years I’ve realized that whether you’re an expat in China, backpacking through Europe, or staying home in small-town America, it doesn’t matter. Female travel isn’t the problem, the issue is that the world isn’t a safe place for women, period.

sexual harassment foreign women china Update:

Apparently blogging is very cathartic for me, because I almost immediately felt better after writing this. I guess it just took me a few days for my body to get over the shock of thinking I might be murdered on a highway in Wuhan. I’m still not exactly sure why I was so upset in the days after the taxi incident, and to be honest I felt guilty letting myself get so emotional over it when in reality, nothing really happened!

For those of you who are freaking out over me (sorry mom…) I’m completely fine now. I honestly almost didn’t publish this post because I’m worried all my friends and family are going to force me on a plane back to America. After doing some thinking I decided that it is really important for me to share this story. Men need to be aware of what happens to women on a consistent basis, and women need to know that China isn’t quite as safe as we all assume it is.

Now that the shock has worn off, I’ve started preparing myself for what I might do in the future. I can share my Geo-location with my friends on WeChat (a Chinese texting and social media app). I can put my keys between my fingers as an impromptu weapon like I used to do in DC, and I can (unfortunately) stop being so friendly with cab drivers in China.

Next time a taxi driver tries to flirt with me I’ll shut it down right away. I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m a “bitch” anymore. It’s time to let go of my resting nice face and be more assertive. I don’t have to be polite if someone is making me uncomfortable, and I can take steps to empower myself and avoid becoming a victim.

China isn't as safe as I thought it was

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Have any of you experienced sexual harassment in a place that surprised you? Please feel free to share your story below.

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

51 comments on “Abducted in Wuhan: Sexual Harassment in China

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about this incident. At the same time, I’m really glad you wrote about it. Like you said, it is important for women to know that these things happen anywhere in the world and I don’t think you were overreacting at all. Don’t apologise for getting emotional over it, your response is 100% justified. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Thanks so much Ruth. I’m glad I read your story when you wrote about this stuff a while ago. At first I didn’t believe it but now I completely see where you were coming from! I was such an idiot for thinking I’m safer in China haha

  2. Hi Richelle! Poor you!

    I’m quite puzzled reading your today’s article and feel sorry for what happened. But BTW did you get the taxi plate’s number or the number on the card on the dashboard? Personally if I take a taxi at night I might quickly write down on my cell phone textpad (or anywhere else) the taxi’s plate number. Because in case of conflict this is the only way for the police to identify the driver.

    Now concerning the happy chat, I am like you always happy to talk to a driver and practice my Chinese, but if I feel something weird is profiling, I am also not shy to be a bit strict and say something like: “你去那里?看上去我的宾馆不在那边。如果你不知道没关系我先下车.” And I start getting my money out like I want to pay. Because we can always change taxi and even outside in the dark might be safer than “locked” in a cab…

    Finally I think 110 is a national number and if the guy kept on pretending he doesn’t know where he is and brought you to some weird places, u could say: “OK so as we are lost I will call now 110 for help”. I am sure the guy would be back on track very quickly.

    Of course I am a man so I perfectly understand that situation can be very different with women but living in Ningbo since 2000 I have never felt so safe and never had or heard from female friends some tragic stories. But don’t get me wrong I didn’t say nothing happened to anyone. I am not also trying to minimize your bad experience or feelings, just sharing my own feedback. And you said it too in your article that you (hopefully) never had previous experiences like that.

    You are right in saying that safety is today a world concern. Honestly last time I came back to Europe, I found it quite scary even as a man as my plane arrived late in the evening. Even in the airport terminal just freshly arrived I felt very uncomfortable with quite a few guys wandering around who obviously were not travelers. Forget about taking the subway at this time and concerning ladies, they wouldn’t even dare to go out on their own after 8pm…Yes, sad but it’s like that unfortunately in almost all Europe…

    I don’t know about America but the last experience I had a few years ago as a tourist in LA was to get up early and try to go jogging around 4am. But the hotel guard jumped to me from behind the reception’s desk and made me clearly understand that I could not go running like that on my own so early in the morning (or so late at night). So I went back to my room…

    Anyway as you are young and in good health, I also see one solution. You could start practicing a bit of Wushu. It will give you that extra confidence and anyone trying to get too close to you would be in trouble ;-)

    Hope you will feel better soon and keep on writing your great articles :-) Cheers! Patrick

    • Hey Patrick,

      Where do I even start! Firstly, I looked for his ID card on the dashboard but I didn’t see it. From my limited experience, taxi drivers in Wuhan seemed to be sketchier than the rest of China. My hotel owner even negotiated a price with the cab driver the next morning rather than turning on the meter which I thought was odd. I never take a photo of the license plate before I get in the car because I’ve literally never had a problem, but I might start doing that now. That’s also good to know about the 110 number, because I had never heard of it before.

      While you may be right that getting harassed by a cab driver in China isn’t typical, I think it’s very naive to assume that China is safer than Europe or America. China is actually very dangerous for Chinese women, as well as Japan and Korea. However, the culture makes it difficult for women to come forward, therefore, since these things aren’t in the news, women assume China and other East Asian countries are super safe.

      Secondly, getting out of a sticky situation isn’t as simple as berating a taxi driver in Chinese for not knowing where he’s going. It took me a while to realize we were “lost”, and I knew my hotel was in a random area so I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. By the time I started to feel nervous, we were in a place where I knew there was no way in hell I was ever going to get another taxi. It was literally the middle of nowhere and my phone was almost dead. I personally felt like either way I was screwed. Also, it’s very difficult to know if you’re actually in a dangerous situation or not. Girls are socialized into not making a scene unless you’re actually in danger, but for me, it could have gone either way. It turns out my cab driver wasn’t actually going to hurt my after all, so I was probably safer staying in his cab than demanding to be dumped on the side of a highway in the middle of nowhere Wuhan.

      Overall, I don’t think any amount of Wushu or taking a photo of the license plate would have helped me if this guy really wanted to hurt me, and had a weapon on him. However, I do resolve to be less nice to men who are inappropriate with me, and make a more obvious show of sharing my location with friends if this ever happens again.

  3. Wow!!! I’m so glad you’re safe! That’s crazy :( unfortunatly there are evil people everywhere and these things do happen. One thing though: you should never ever feel bad or guilty for being so upset over this just because something worse could’ve happened. He completely violated you and it’s normal to have an emotional reaction! So yeah, don’t feel bad – it would be weird if you minimised it and felt nothing at all!

    I’ve had a bad experience in Costa Rica that kept me awake at night for weeks with a taxi driver. I would spend all night awake thinking of how to take revenge! I now always get the license plate in an obvious way – I take a picture of taxi drivers plates and Info and then make an obvious point to be On my phone.

    So glad you’re ok!!

    • Thanks Chantae :) I had no idea about your experience in Costa Rica! Honestly, being alone in a taxi is such a vulnerable position. Honestly I’d never had any major issues with taxi drivers before, so I never felt the need to take a photo of the license plate before I got in. I think from now on I might start doing that if it’s not awkward, and I’ll make a very obvious point to be on my phone, sharing my location with others.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story, as upsetting as it is. I wrote about this same problem last year after the problem with the stalker in Shenzhen that China Elevator Stories wrote about (I’m the one who had to kick the stalker out of the writers group after every member had uncomfortable encounters with him). http://www.twoamericansinchina.com/2015/02/china-not-as-safe-as-you-think.html I don’t know why when we arrive in China we all feel “safe,” it’s totally unreasonable to ever think you are safe traveling alone anywhere. But for some reason, we all feel that way at first. As uncomfortable as these stories are, we need to share them. Women need to take precautions when traveling. In this case, could you have done anything differently? Probably not. I think all of us have taken a taxi on our own at night before. You didn’t do anything wrong. But at least knowing that we need to be vigilant when traveling can help prevent tragedies.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your post Amanda. I think I read it a while back but I could’t find it when I was writing this article. That story about the man in Shenzhen was the first time I realized that China wasn’t as safe as I thought it was, and I almost didn’t believe it! I have no idea why we all feel like China is so safe… I guess it’s because I honestly couldn’t imagine a Chinese man overpowering me. However, as time goes by I realize how incredibly naive I was.

  5. “…to be honest I felt guilty letting myself get so emotional over it when in reality, nothing really happened!” Please try not to feel guilty about very natural feelings that happen after a situation like this. Something did happen, he violated your basic trust and took advantage of a situation where he’s expected to provide a professional service. Don’t question feeling awful about how he treated you. I would too. Please don’t be hard on yourself about that. Your body and mind, very literally, had an emotional reaction because it felt wrong and what he did WAS wrong. Nothing was funny about it – it adds insult to injury and makes you feel crazy, I’m sure.

    I’m so sorry this happened. *hugs* You are a smart gal and have nothing to feel bad about regarding this. Sure, you’re more on guard now, but that doesn’t take away from what a jerk this chap was. I’m glad you wrote about this too. :)

    • Thanks so much Caroline :) I’m glad I finally found the nerve to publish this. I think girls get socialized into downplaying their experiences that don’t fall into neat categories like rape and violent sexual assault. Sure “nothing happened” but it still traumatized me for a few days afterwards. It’s just hard to come forward and explain an experience that was “all in my head”. Thanks for your kind words though, it means a lot!

  6. That is so scary!! I didn’t have that problem when I was in China but something very similar happened to me in the Philippines. I really did not think I was going to survive. The cab driver took me into a very bad area full of very young hookers, took me back into a dark neighborhood and parked in front of this ‘guesthouse’ with a group of shirtless men standing outside. I was screaming at him to take me to the Holiday Inn but he was yelling at me to get out. I kept refusing and eventually he took me there, but of course charged me 2x as much. A small price to pay for my life. I’ve never been so afraid.

    I also had a sketchy cab driver while living in Korea, telling me I was beautiful and being a creep. I had him drop me off a few blocks from my house because I didn’t want him to know where I lived. When I handed him the money he grabbed my hand and tried to kiss it. I got out really fast and he was mad and screeched away!

    • Oh wow the Philippines? I did notice that taxi drivers in Manila were not so great to foreigners, but I never actually felt unsafe. That’ so scary! Honestly your story about Korea doesn’t even surprise me. I get that kind of stuff from Chinese cab drivers all the time too.

  7. Thank you for speaking out about this! You had every right to feel how you did afterwards. You were completely taken advantage of, disrespected and mentally abused. I’m sick of this crap. It’s just the same in Korea. I’m sending positive, strong vibes to you girl. You were right to write the post and you’re contributing to a voice that everyone needs to hear.

    • Thanks so much Alice :) The more I talk with people the more I realize this is a major problem in East Asia. I guess since no one ever talks about it or reports it, we all think these countries are so safe. The reality is that these countries are definitely not as safe for women as I originally thought, especially local women.

  8. This is very brave of you to share! It is not strange at all to feel emotional over this. Something did happen and although you weren’t physically attacked, you were made to realize how valuable you are. It is a scary thought. I’m a female bartender and have had my share of weirdos and it is not fun to feel like you have to scan the parking lot before heading to your car, but it is reality and sharing these stories help. You want to cry, then cry. It is a scary world sometimes.

    • Oh wow! I hope nothing too bad happened to you as a bartender. As women sometimes we can be so vulnerable. I hate it, but there’s nothing we can really do besides take steps to protect ourselves from all the creepers out there.

  9. Oh Richelle! Sorry to hear this, but yours was a perfectly normal reaction. Sometimes the intimidation feels like an attack in itself. I’m glad you’re finally feeling better. Lovely to meet you at TBEX and keep your chin up, m’love! Xxx

  10. Thank you for sharing this post. Sadly I think you’ll find many women have had experiences like this all over the world and it does need to be spoken about more because it’s just not on. After being in similar situations myself I make sure I never land anywhere alone at night. This may sound extreme but I have genuinely felt so vulnerable in taxis after dark, particularly when it’s a new city and you don’t know exactly where you are going, that I either book a day flight if possible or stay at the airport hotel or in transit until it’s light. That’s not to say the daytime is any safer but at least you have options like public transport and will have more chance of getting another cab if you feel the need to leave the first. I hope all the support and advice you receive on this post helps you to feel stronger over time. Safe travels xxx

    • Thanks so much Jayne. Wow that’s really unfortunate. I thought I was being so clever having an overnight layover in Wuhan, but I probably should have just slept in the airport. I didn’t get more than 3 hours of sleep in my hotel anyway because I couldn’t calm down for a few hours after I got back.

  11. Oh man Richelle. It is perfectly understandable that this experience would upset you so much. Nothing horrible happened but it could have. And, from what you’ve written here, it has to many other women. And I’m so glad that you decided to share this story because it’s experiences like these that should be talked about. Sometimes traveling (or living in) foreign countries isn’t safe. It’s just a sad reality. I had a really similar experience when I first moved to Jakarta (sans the sexual harassment part, which sounds terrifying). I was taking a cab home from the airport. It was after 11pm and I was all alone. I had no internet on my phone to track my location, my battery was about dead and I didn’t know my way around the city at all. The place I was going was a well-known landmark in the city and the driver said he knew where it was. The ride should have taken 25 minutes max, but around 40 minutes in I realized we had driven outside of the city. There were no high rises, no familiar landmarks, no people around. I panicked. I asked the driver repeatedly where we were but the friendly driver who smiled and spoke broken English when I met him would only wave me off and yell at me in Bahasa. Long story short we drove around the dark streets on the outskirts of Jakarta for about an hour and a half. I was silently crying in the backseat when suddenly we pulled into my apartment complex. What should have cost 100,000 rupiah cost about 250,000 (which shows just how long I was in that cab). I walked into my apartment and just started balling uncontrollably. It was horrible and traumatizing and I was freaked out of taking cabs the entire time I lived in Jakarta. I learned though to ALWAYS have internet on my phone so I can track my location and to avoid taking cabs alone at night. I’m glad everything turned out okay for both of us, but it’s a good reminder to take safety precautions. Glad you’re feeling less traumatized now too :)

    • Wow! Oh my god Justine that sounds horrible. Did you write a blog post about that, because I think I remember reading something along those lines. If it wasn’t you, then that’s really scary because it means almost the same thing happened to someone else I know. I’m so glad you’re okay. Thankfully all he was trying to do was scam you, not kill you. I think this experience has made me realize that I need to make sure my phone is always charged, and I need to start buying SIM cards when I travel. I was dumb and didn’t look up exactly where my hotel was, I just knew that it was 1.4 miles from the airport. I forgot to even write down the name! Also my crappy Chinese phone has a horrible map app. Now that I have an iphone I’m going to always map my route ahead of time so that I can yell at the cab driver if he deviates too much, or show him the map if he’s “lost”.

  12. Eeek, that’s scary! I don’t blame you for being shaken up about it – not being in control in a situation where you feel unsafe is the absolute worst feeling.

    I think this quote says it all, though: “Female travel isn’t the problem, the issue is that the world isn’t a safe place for women, period.” People always ask me if I feel scared traveling alone. And my answer is always no – because bad things can (and do) happen ANYwhere, especially to women. I wish it wasn’t true, but we definitely do have to approach situations differently than men. :(

    • Thanks Amanda :) It is definitely unfortunate but I always try to keep everything in perspective. Don’t assume certain countries are “safe havens for women” like I did, but also don’t let these experiences keep you from exploring the world either. This kind of stuff can happen everywhere so we might as well travel anyway! haha

  13. I’m so sorry that this happened! You don’t have to feel the need to explain why you’re upset. It’s okay to feel what you feel, especially after such a traumatic incident. Even though some women go through worse, that does not dismiss what happened to you. I’m glad that you’re okay. Thank you for sharing this with us! It definitely makes me think twice!

    • Thanks so much Lauren. That was super nice of you! I think the main takeaway is that safety is a concern wherever you are, so it shouldn’t hold you back from traveling or living abroad. Be aware of your surroundings and personal safety wherever you are, regardless of what country you’re in, and hopefully you’ll be fine!

  14. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear this Richelle. At no point should you feel guilty or feel the need to explain your feelings. You were not in the wrong at any point. I’m just so sorry that more girls have to go through awful situations before anyone takes these issues seriously and even then, it soon fades away. The rape and death of little village girls in India is a case in point. Keep talking and keep writing. It’s when young ladies are afraid to speak up that we need to worry about.
    Speak up loud and clearly! Harrassment in any form is not acceptable, wherever you’re from.

    • Thanks so much :) I agree, the more people that speak out the better. We need to cultivate an environment where women can speak out about this kind of stuff without being afraid of how people will react.

  15. Hey Richelle- I read this post last week when I as at TBEX N.A but just realised I didn’t comment. And I really wanted to comment to say I am so sorry this happened and I think it is completely understandable that you felt so upset about it. It must have been really scary. Taxi drivers can be so weird in China sometimes. I didn’t have an experience quite like yours but I have had some strange moments. Won’t go into details or this comment will be too long. I also had some lovely taxi drivers in Beijing too, but I definitely think there are a lot of strange occurrences with taxis in China- even if it’s just that they start taking you to the wrong place because they claim to know where you’re going but don’t! But what happened to you is not right and you shouldn’t feel guilty or bad about being upset about it. Anyway, it’s good you spoke out and hopefully something like this will never happen to you again. I hope you are feeling much better now. x

    • I completely agree with you that a lot of taxi drivers in China are a bit strange. Many are nice, but others ask too personal of questions and get a little too familiar. I hope you enjoyed TBEX though. I went to the one in Bangkok and it was awesome!

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  17. How terrifying! You’re absolutely justified in feeling terrible about this incident, regardless if others/you’ve encountered worse before. This would shake me, too! I’m glad you mentioned that this isn’t just China’s problem, and that it’s happening everywhere. I’ve written a similar post (and subsequent essay) about my first taxi ride in India. Nothing at all happened, but I thought for sure I was going to be raped the entire first 24 hours in Delhi. And we feel that way because the media has conditioned us to be fearful, and because we hear it happening to our friends all the time. It’s a legitimate response; it’s just a sad reality. Thanks for sharing your story, despite your initial hesitation! And I’m so glad everything turned out okay.

    • Thanks Jessica :) Yeah I definitely don’t think this is a China problem, I just think that the media does the opposite thing with East Asia and lures us into a false sense of safety. For example, I recently was talking to a girl who lived in Japan and she told me she was sexually harassed all the time! Apparently there are even female-only subway cars now because of it. Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world, but they don’t count crimes you don’t report. I just want to make sure that I don’t keep perpetuating this myth that China and East Asia is a safe haven for women when it’s not.

  18. Oh my gosh Richelle! I was soooo nervous reading this!! Thank goodness nothing happened!! But I would be soooo terrified as well. You do feel so helpless when you’re in a cab in a foreign town. I use the app Maps.me and always pin the location of where I’m staying before I get there. That way, I can see on the map if the cab driver is going the right way (and I’ll even direct if he’s not sure where it is). I’m sooo glad this didn’t turn into a worse story. Thanks for sharing it and I hope you don’t encounter anything like this again!

    • Yeah I think I’m going to start doing that. I was an idiot and just quickly booked a place and snapped a photo of the address, but I didn’t look up exactly where it was, and my old phone has horrible maps (thankfully I have a new one now!) Next time I’m definitely going to type the address into maps so I can give the driver directions if things get fishy.

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  22. Thank you for this post. I lived in China for a year and spent a lot of it feeling afraid and stressed about sexual harassment. It needs to be discussed more!
    I was living with my partner and was able to bus to work, but on Wednesdays the school I was at wasn’t on the bus route so I would taxi. Those trips used to stress me out so much! One of the first times I took a taxi the driver offered me his half-smoked cigarette (right from his slobbery mouth) and intentionally rubbed my thigh which had me demanding to get out and jum[ping in a new taxi. Another time I was walking across my carpark to my apartment and a man walked past me, flat-out grabbed both my breasts for a squeeze, shoved me away from him (like I was the one getting all up in his space) and walked off. It was so upsetting and those two incidents made that solo taxi-ride just awful.
    The worst part was that my Chinese co-workers weren’t fazed by it and no-one seemed to care. We need more open dialogue like this because when something like sexual assault is normalized like this woman assume that they are wrong for feeling upset out it.

  23. Wow this is scary! Glad you are safe. Thank you for sharing … I’m about to go back to Europe to travel solo and I definitely feel safe going but I shouldn’t be ignorant thinking I’m invincible because nothing has happened yet. That is a huge wake-up call for sure. It’s a shame that things like this happen but it’s important to share these stories like you did!

    • Yeah it’s such a unfortunately fine line between not wanting to promote fear mongering, but also wanting girls to be safe. I would say that even if I was home in Seattle or just wandering around Beijing- you’re by yourself a lot. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home or traveling solo, you have to be prepared no matter what. Good luck on your trip though: I’m sure it’s going to be amazing!!

  24. Thank you for sharing. I read this when you first posted and I had to come back and read it again today. I currently live in Taiwan and hadn’t had a problem until this week. One of my neighbors recently chatted me up in the elevator and next thing I knew, he wouldn’t let me go to my apartment until I gave him my phone number. He called it right there, to make sure it worked, so i couldn’t get away with a wrong number. Now he calls me several times a day. I never answer and figured out how to block his calls.
    He also stands in front of my door and rings my doorbell for minutes on end. I don’t want to go outside my apartment anymore. It’s that same feeling of helplessness like you mentioned. He hasn’t done anything illegal, so I don’t think I’ll get much sympathy from the authorities. Anyways, knowing I’m not the only one is a bit of comfort in an awkward situation. I’ll just have to be less friendly to the neighbors too unfortunately.

    • Wow Michelle that sounds awful! It’s crazy how men can pressure you into giving away your phone number. I came up with a trick that I use with Wechat, where I let them add me and then just don’t add them back. But I did have one guy insist I add him back right then and there (he actually chased me down the street when I didn’t add him back!). I immediately blocked him after that. The fact that he knows where you live makes it way creepier. Would you feel comfortable talking to him and telling him he needs to stop or you’re going to call the police? The scary thing is that confrontation can sometimes backfire and it will make people upset and possibly violent. I would probably just yell at him through the door to please leave. Honestly… that’s the best I’ve got unfortunately.

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