In Search of a Harassment-Free DC

I am in the process of looking for a new apartment, and along with things such as rent per month, finding out if all utilities are included and if the space has enough storage for my stuff, another thing I’m researching in different neighborhoods is whether or not they’re safe for me, a single woman. I deal with enough street harassment where I live now—I don’t want to deal with it anywhere else if I have the choice.

Photo by joelogon via flickr
Photo by joelogon via flickr

My first trip today was to Arlington, in the area between Clarendon and Court House Stations. For the most part I felt like I could walk freely and felt at ease. However, as I walked to Court House Station, there was some guy who was waiting for an ART bus. From the way he was leering at me I knew he was going to say something.

“You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he said in this lecherous tone. Since he already projected that he was going to harass me (by his leering), it gave me enough time to figure out how to react to him. In this case I ignored him—treated him like he was invisible.

“Bitch,” he said, under his breath. I didn’t bother to turn around to react to that. I just kept on walking. He thinks he has the right to “compliment” then insult me, well I have the right to ignore him.

Location: Wilson Blvd at N. Adams St (Arlington)

My next trip to look at an apartment was in Silver Spring. I did not feel as relaxed walking through this area as I did Arlington. I’ve read this book by Gavin de Becker called “The Gift of Fear” which pretty much tells you to trust your instincts. Though the woman whose apartment I looked at told me she’s never had problems traveling solo, my own gut feeling was what I had to follow.

As I headed back to the train station to head home, I waited to cross at a light at Colesville and Georgia Ave. This car eased up to the intersection, and the guy in the right back passenger seat had his head out the window like a dog. Once again, I had a strong feeling he was going to do or say something, and once again, I was right. However, the harassment wasn’t geared towards me, it was directed at two college-aged girls that were waiting at the light with me.

I had absolutely no clue what the guy had said, but I could tell by the look on his face it was something ignorant. Like I did with the guy in Arlington, the girls also chose to ignore him. I said something though. I shook my head and said “Unh-unh-unh. No.” I also took note of the car’s plates: HFP 8439, Pennsylvania plates.  They were a group of well-dressed guys all wearing dark suits, white dress shirts, and pink silk ties. Since they were dressed identically I assumed they represented some organization.

Location: Colesville Rd & Georgia Ave (Silver Spring)


It’s sad to think that there won’t be a place in the DC area that’ll be 100% harassment-free, but I am determined to get as close to it as possible. I am tired of walking down the street and being open to every Tom, Dick and Harry I walk by doing or saying something degrading or sexual to me. Enough’s enough.

Submitted by D

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4 Responses

  1. K

    i grew up in alexandria and couldn’t walk ANYWHERE without being honked/whistled/leered at or harassed in some way. but i moved to reston recently and that’s all changed — i’ve been all over the place and even out running in my neighborhood and haven’t been harassed. stared at, maybe, but never approached. maybe it gets better the further out into the suburbs you go? in virginia, anyway…

  2. D

    K, where I live now (in NE) not a day goes by where I don’t have strange guys trying to approach me, guys slowing their pace down in their cars to “roll with” me as I walk, the leering, obnoxious commentary, etc. The only time harassment doesn’t happen is when I don’t leave my house.

    There are neighborhoods people have told me to check out, but they’ve told me things such as “There’s harassment near the Metro station, but once you’re away from it, you’re fine,” which has put me off. I shouldn’t have to tolerate anything like that during my commute. That’s what I do already.

    I also lived in Alexandria (Landmark area) my first year here, and was harassed (the worst was some dummy who parked his truck in the middle of Pickett Street to catcall at me while I was trying to walk to the Duke Street Library, and not even my calling the police deterred him), but not to the frequency and magnitude of here in DC proper.

    I know I won’t get 100% away from harassment, but I want to get as close as possible. Save for the catcaller waiting for the ART in Arlington, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all during my time in the area. Most people who were out were just out enjoying their day, not out harassing women.

  3. Anonymous

    I live in Glover Park and have had pretty good luck not being harassed there. The most likley reason is that there is really no reason to go there unless you live there, shop at Whole Foods, play in a softball league or enjoy one of the great restaurants or bars, most of which (with the exception of Good Guys) are frequented by couples and families. Good luck!

    • D

      That’s part of the reason why I liked Arlington so much, Anonymous. I didn’t get that tense, on guard feeling I get like I normally do if I’m in a harassment-filled zone. Most of the people I encountered were family types and young professionals just trying to enjoy their day. I thought that catcaller at the bus stop was a random aberration. I don’t think catcalling guys would be hanging out in front of the Pottery Barn on Clarendon pulling that mess.

      I have been back in that area on Monday and yesterday. I was in the area when it was getting dark Monday and once again, I felt relaxed. It felt good to walk down the streets and have no one hanging out on corners, no one pulling next to me in their cars, and no one bothering me, period. I dreaded having to go back to where I currently live!

      I am really hoping I can find an apartment in that area, but so far I’ve been striking out. Thanks everyone for their support during this.