Ben Schwartz, a 31-year-old student and waiter in San Francisco, had enough of a man on the street catcalling his girlfriend early on the morning of November 15. So he asked the man, firmly but politely, “Can you please just stop?”
Next thing Schwartz knew, he was fighting for his life against the catcaller, who attacked him and stabbed him nine times, putting Schwartz in the hospital — and it could have been much worse.
“It barely missed my spinal cord in the back by just a few inches, so luckily this wheelchair is not permanent, thank God,” Schwartz told San Francisco’s ABC 7 News. “It punctured my right lung from behind.”
The problem of catcalling, the verbal street harassment of women my male strangers, has been in the headlines recently, thanks to a viral video that showed a woman walking through New York City and finding herself on the receiving end of catcalls more than 100 times in a 10-hour period.
The video had its critics, many of whom dismissed the catcalls directed at the woman in the video and, by extension, all women, as harmless or even flattering compliments. But the Ben Schartz attack appeared to expose the violent underpinnings of anonymous sexual harassment.
The Schwartz incident took place shortly before 5 a.m. that Saturday morning at Larkin and Ellis Streets in San Francisco. Schwartz, his girlfriend, and another friend were walking home from a get-together when an anonymous stranger on the street repeatedly made sexually suggestive and explicit comments directed at Schwartz’s girlfriend.
After Schwartz told the man to “please stop,” he knew that the incident was not over.
“At first we tried to just ignore it, just kind of walk away and make our way home, cross the street and try to take a different path,” Schwartz recalled, as the group noticed the catcaller stalking them. “It turned violent very quickly, punches thrown. Next thing I know, I kinda had a knife in the back of my neck.”
The suspect escaped in a silver sedan and is still being sought by police.
A GoFundMe page set up by Schwartz’s friends has so far raised more than $30,000 to cover his medical expenses, and pledges to use any extra money for a donation to victim’s compensation fund in San Francisco.
Ben Schwartz needed 60 stitches on his arms alone, and doctors told him that he is lucky that he survived the vicious assault by the knife-wielding catcaller at all.