Barnes & Noble worker speaks out after harassment
"It was a shocking experience, it was unexpected and it's not OK."
That's what Kerrie Barton told KOIN 6 News after she was inappropriately touched 4 times by a stranger while she worked at the Barnes & Noble in the Clackamas Town Center April 13, KOIN 6 News reports.
At first she thought she was just in the way of customers until she realized the same person was near her every time it happened.
The next day, she went in to work early and looked at the surveillance video with her boss.
"It made me just feel sick," she said, "just nauseated and shocked. But then, to my horror, he started doing this to other people and I just couldn't believe it."
The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said the suspect -- later identifed as 38-year-old Justin Carl Phelps of Clackamas -- touched as many as 9 women in the store.
Barton said she was finding some books for a customer and felt "a slight brush right across my bottom, so it wasn't a grope, it wasn't a grab. It was done very nonchalantly."
It didn't raise any alarm bells, she said. But it happened again. And again. And again.
That 4th time she said she "was just so angry. But when you're not expecting it, when you haven't had that experience before, you just don't know what to do."
That night at home she felt herself getting angrier. "How dare someone do this to me! How dare they touch me! How dare they invade my physical space! How dare they make me feel this way!"
When she watched the surveillance video the next day she saw other women being assaulted and saw the shock on their faces -- "the disbelief, the confusion, 'Did this really just happen to me?'"
On Wednesday, her manager spotted the suspect walking in the mall and wearing the same outfit, then contacted authorities.
Phelps was arrested and charged with harassment. He has since posted bail and is out of jail.
Kerrie Barton wanted to come forward and speak out publicly to help other women feel more comfortable coming forward, "to have the courage to say, 'You know what, yes, I can be brave, I can come forward. A little discomfort isn't going to stop me from doing what's right."
She said she's a little concerned he's out on the streets.
"He is supposed to be banned from the mall but people who break the law and invade people's space like this are not law-abiding citizens."
Barton said she's willing to speak out "in order to embolden other women to come forward if they've been assaulted by this person."
Investigators are asking any additional victims to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Authorities said they are following up on calls and tips.
KOIN 6 News is a media partner of the Portland Tribune.
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