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Courage and Composure in NYC Subway Flasher Incident Earn Bronxville Tai Chi Instructor Honors
Posted on Sat, Dec 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm
by IDMA Editor

When faced with a sexual advance on the subway, a first reaction might be to recoil in horror, but Nicola Briggs, a martial arts instructor at The Tai Chi School of Westchester in Bronxville, decided to confront her predator and hold him accountable.

On Thursday evening, The Professional Women of Westchester honored Briggs with the organization's first annual Shero Award for bravery in fending off a sexual predator.

PWW president Jaimie Imperati presented Briggs a framed certificate wrapped in a pink bow. She also received a lifetime membership in the business networking group.

The presentation was part of D'Errico Log Cabin Jewelers 25th anniversary celebration and Richard D'Errico, owner of the Scarsdale jewelry store, presented Briggs with a white gold and diamond peace sign for exhibiting bravery in a difficult situation.

Back in September, Briggs boarded a crowded #4 local subway in New York City en route to meet a friend for dinner. Although she was aware of a man standing behind her, close enough that his messenger bag touched her, she didn't become concerned until the subway car began to clear out and the man did not move.

Photo of Nicole Briggs

"My intuition told me to turn around," she said, and when she did she saw the man exposing himself and wearing a condom. Briggs said it took her "about half a second" to realize what she had seen and to begin screaming.

The offender moved his bag to cover himself and tried to apologize, but Briggs grabbed his bag. "I screamed, 'I know what I saw!' from 53rd Street to 42nd Street. I knew I had to keep the attention on him and keep shaming him." That was enough to mobilize Briggs's fellow passengers. Men on the train blocked all of the car's doors so the predator couldn't escape when the train pulled into the station. Briggs silenced the predator each time he tried to speak. He tried to step around her but she stopped him.

"Get the transit police," Briggs shouted at the 42nd Street station. Police handcuffed the man before he could take two steps.

"I was not at all embarrassed after I realized what I had seen," Briggs said. "He was a repeat offender, out to prey on someone."

A short video of the incident on YouTube has garnered close to a million hits. (Note: the video contains expletives.)

In accepting the award, Briggs said she was moved and honored.

"I will be proud to wear the peace symbol," Briggs said. "It stands for what I wanted to do, bring peace to the situation."

Briggs advises women who ride the subway to keep their bag between themselves and other riders on crowded trains. "If you feel unsafe, enlist the help of people around you. Say out loud, forcefully and repeatedly, what an offender is doing." She urges all women to take a vocal and strong stand against any type of predator.

"When it comes to protecting our personal dignity, women can speak up," Briggs said. "Defending oneself begins with the mind."

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