Yet Another Case of Targeted Public Exposure – Not once, But Twice

Location:  New Hampshire Ave & Quincy NW and New Hampshire Ave & Taylor NW (Petworth)
Time: Morning Rush Hour (5am-9:30am)

This morning, I was walking to the Georgia Ave metro station around 6:30 am. I noticed a man pass me on a bike while I was walking south down New Hampshire Ave. When I got to New Hampshire and Taylor, he was standing on the sidewalk next to his bike, facing away from the street. As I approached, I noticed he had his penis exposed in his hand. I was shaken, but I walked by without reacting or making eye contact. I then saw him ride by me again on his bike and assumed it was over. But when I got closer to the metro, at New Hampshire and Quincy, there he was again, standing next to his bike, waiting for me, again with his penis out. This time I looked him in the eye and said, “Fuck you”…he didn’t say anything, but slightly smiled.

After I got on the train I kept thinking about how I’d reacted. I was afraid I’d given him the satisfaction he was looking for by making it clear he’d upset me. I thought about other things I could have said, more effective ways I could have shamed him for his behavior or reminded him of my humanity. I thought about who I could tell about this incident who would listen without implying that I was overreacting—after all, I never felt physically threatened— or implicitly suggesting that for some reason it was my fault. Even people who loved me—my parents, my boyfriend— I was afraid would just admonish me for walking alone at a time when the streets are relatively quiet. I thought about my clothes…I was headed to the gym and wearing shorts for the first time this year, embracing the recent heat wave. I wondered if it would have happened if my legs, my flesh, hadn’t been so visible. And the fact that I thought about all of these things made it clear to me that despite my self-proclaimed feminism and best intentions, I have internalized the victim-blaming narrative.

This is not the first time this has happened to me, and it won’t be the last. I hate that I’m resigned to that. But I feel lucky that I do have people in my life to whom I can turn. The one friend I’ve chosen to tell so far provided unconditional support, reminded me there’s no “wrong” way to react, and directed me to both this website and the WMATA Stop Harassment Campaign to report what happened.

Sharing my experience is important. This campaign is important. Thank you for creating this space.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 4/11/13 by “Aleta”

Street art put up by CASS in the Farragut area.


Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault?
Submit your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. Recommended tip: Program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

2 Responses

  1. Matthew Jackson

    Sick of wondering whether it was her fault for wearing particular clothes, she made her end of year film on the topic, armed with a hidden camera to record the street harassment.

  2. Shane Bryant

    Next time one of my male friends asks me why I’m so sensitive about street harassment — and this happens all of the time — I’m going to send them this story. Hey, “nice guys”: want to know why we’re not overcome with joy when you accost us on the street when we’re going about our daily business? You know why we don’t take street harassment lightly, even if it seems complimentary? Because we don’t want to get fucking stabbed.