Today in unmitigated horror and maddening fuck-ups, a customer at a DC-area Panera Bread alleges that a man approached her in the store, exposed himself, and began masturbating in her direction. When she alerted a manager—and pointed out her assailant, who was leaving the store unchallenged—the manager declined to call the police and instead "asked if [she] wanted a cookie or anything."
Because, you know, everyone likes a little nibble when they're being sexually violated.
I was studying downstairs at the Panera in Dupont Circle when I looked to my right and a man had his pants fully down and was masturbating in my direction. I screamed and ran upstairs to get a manager. The man walked past me and the manager on the stairs and I pointed him out. The manager asked if I wanted a cookie or anything. I told him I wanted him to call the police. He asked which seat the man was in so he could clean it off. I was crying and shaking and not sure what to do, so I left the Panera. Later I had composed myself and decided I wanted to report it. I called the police, who came to the Panera and told me they couldn't file an official report if the man was gone. They also told me I should have called them right away so they had a chance of finding the guy, and that I should have captured what he was doing in a photo or video so they could have evidence against him. I tried to contact Panera about training their employees to respond to such incidents and didn't get a response – but they did quickly delete my yelp review when I described what happened on the site. I haven't been back to the Panera.
These kinds of situations are part of rape culture, in case you're one of those people who claim not to "get it." Rape culture doesn't always manifest as an active atrocity—sometimes it's just a passive failure of employee training and human empathy. It's easy to say that "everyone hates rape" and "sexual crimes are punished," but in practice those statements aren't consistently true at all. Even when a victim does everything "right"—reports her harassment, goes to the cops, follows up, a lot of the time she just gets a shrug and a lecture (and maybe a cookie). Not justice, not safety.
We were disturbed by reported sexual misconduct by a guest at this location At that time, cafe management acted by speaking w/ the witness & offered to contact the authorities. The Panera team did speak with police that day. We have a zero tolerance for this type of activity. The safety & comfort of our associates and guests is always our first priority.
Image via Getty.