A WAVE 3 News reporter who was kissed by a stranger during a live broadcast Friday outside of Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond music festival said she felt “uncomfortable and powerless” after the incident.
WAVE 3 News reporter Sara Rivest shared a video Friday on Twitter that included her on-air encounter with the man that happened as she was reporting on Bourbon & Beyond from outside the Kentucky Exposition Center.
“Hey mister, here’s your 3 seconds of fame. How about you not touch me? Thanks!!” Rivest wrote in the tweet.
The video has since received nearly 130,000 views.
In the early part of the video, a man is behind Rivest, making a spanking motion with his hand and smiling as he then walks off camera.
A few seconds later, a second man quickly runs in front of Rivest, who doesn’t let the distraction stop her from reporting.
But the first man then quickly returns and goes for the kiss on Rivest’s cheek before running back off camera.
“OK, that was not appropriate,” Rivest says to the camera. “But … let’s just go to the story.”
After a brief feature on Bourbon & Beyond is shown, Rivest appears again on camera to sign off and send it back to the anchors in the WAVE 3 studio.
WAVE 3 News anchor John Boel asks Rivest if she is OK and “free from the kissing bandit there,” adding there is “a police officer right behind you if you need it.”
Rivest, seen smiling and laughing, replies, “Oh, yeah. I might need some help.”
But while Rivest appeared to laugh off the incident, she told WAVE 3 anchor Dawne Gee during a Monday evening broadcast that she was shaken up after the incident and her “nervous laughter does not equate to approval of his actions.”
“This is not OK,” Rivest said. ” … Now in his mind, I’m sure he thought this was harmless fun. He probably thought it would make his friends laugh and that he’d get a few seconds on TV.”
“I personally didn’t know how to react. I was shocked, but my nervous laughter does not equate to approval of his actions,” Rivest continued. “It was an exertion of power over me, a woman trying to do her job who couldn’t stop him. This embarrassed me, and it made me feel uncomfortable and powerless.”
Rivest said it was important to show the video again and speak up about the incident “to tell people who don’t know what a violation and all too common occurrence this is.”
“Journalists in the field, especially women, again just trying to do their jobs experience harassment like this all of the time, and it is not OK,” Rivest said. “If you want to act like an idiot behind me in a live shot, that’s your choice. In public places, you have the same right as me to be there.
“But when you put your hands on me or on anyone else without their approval, that is wrong.”
Gee thanked Rivest for speaking up and asked her if she thought the unwanted kiss should be considered assault.
Rivest replied she had spoken with police and they are “considering it harassment with physical contact at this point.”
Police will put out a warrant for his arrest when the man is identified, Rivest said.
A Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson told The Courier Journal the incident remains under investigation and the suspect has not been identified.
“But me personally, if police don’t identify him, I just hope that a woman or a man in his life will see this and will let him know and anyone else who thinks this type of behavior is cute … that it’s not funny,” Rivest said. “So the bottom line here is I wouldn’t come to anyone’s workplace and harass them, and I just ask, please let me do my job too.”
On Tuesday, Rivest spoke with USA Today and said thousands of people have reached out to her following the on-air incident, including not only journalists but people such as nurses and restaurant workers who have shared similar stories of harassment.
“Most of the time you don’t speak up about it, because journalists don’t want to be the story,” Rivest said. “I think when we don’t speak up about it, it just makes it under the radar even more.”
While Rivest appeared to keep calm during Friday’s live broadcast, she told USA Today that her demeanor changed after the camera stopped rolling.
“I just started screaming (at the man), ‘You’re so rude! You’re so rude!’ And I was just yelling at the top of my lungs,” Rivest said. “But he was long gone, like he ran.”
You may like: One of Louisville’s busiest roads might undergo renovations. Here’s how it may impact you
Kaila Story, an associate professor at the University of Louisville who teaches courses on race, gender and sexuality studies, told The Courier Journal how Rivest’s encounter is an example of how society is often “blind” to the “objectification of women.”
“In our culture and country, we’re all socialized that women’s bodies, in particular, are for everyone, and we don’t think about consent when it comes to actions that can come across to folks as innocent …” Story wrote in an email. “These aren’t harmless actions – they’re a part of rape culture.”
Rivest added that her feelings about the unwanted kiss have changed in the past few days.
“At first I was shocked, and now I’m really mad,” Rivest said. “He knew I couldn’t do anything about it … I would just like him to know how it made me feel, that it made me angry, it made me uncomfortable.”
By Billy Kobin
Louisville Courier Journal