Last week, Lucia, a Chevy Chase resident, wrote a message to the Chevy Chase listerv about experiencing street harassment from a construction worker working on her street. She confronted the harasser during the first incident, but the harassment happened a second time when she later walked down her street with the 3-year-old child she nannies.
“I can understand how some might feel that repeated harassment could have been avoided, simply by walking down another block,” she wrote. “But I live here, and I am not in the wrong. I should not have to avoid walking down my own street for fear of harassment.”
Lucia shared contact information for the architect with the listserv, noting that “if others have had a similar experience, please do let this construction company know. I refuse to put up with it day after day until their project is done.” Her call to action spurred a torrent of supportive emails and calls to the construction company by her neighbors. The company soon got in touch with Lucia and let her know that they would address this problem with her harasser, even offering to facilitate a conversation between them.
We’re so pleased to see a community take *collective action* to support a survivor of harassment! BIG CASS props to Lucia for showing us the power of raising your voice and engaging your neighbors. We’re continually encouraged by evidence that companies are listening to concerns and taking public sexual harassment seriously — including, relatedly, trivializing stereotypes of construction workers as harassers.
As our friend Holly of Stop Street Harassment points out, there’s still much work to be done, and Lucia’s story shows us how speaking out and challenging the normalization of street harassment is within our power. We welcome you to speak out and share your own stories with us any time, anonymously or not.
With Lucia’s permission, the story is reconstructed below through email exchanges between CASS and Lucia and the Chevy Chase neighborhood listerv.
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2013 9:19 AM
Subject: [ChevyChase] Harassment – Livingston St. construction site
Yesterday, in the early afternoon as I walked on Livingston towards the Starbucks on Connecticut, I passed an on-going residential construction site.
Several workers were on-site near the porch area of the home. One of them decided to start harassing me via cat-calls. The others laughed. He was doing so quite loudly, in Spanish. I speak Spanish fluently. I sped up the sidewalk, but it continued. I turned around and said “Excuse me?” in Spanish and left. More laughter.
30 min later, I walked back down Livingston heading home. This time I had my 3yr old charge with me.
Same exact harassment. I was so disgusted and angered by the lack of respect, especially in front of a child, that I decided to take action. I informed them that their comments were not appropriate, appreciated or professional. I snapped a picture of them with my cell phone and let them know that the construction company they worked for would be hearing from me. I don’t think they would approve of their employees harassing women on a job site.
On a side note; I noticed that other women (Caucasian) were not harassed, even just a few yards away from me. Perhaps the thought process was that I, a young Hispanic female, would be an easy target.
I can understand how some might feel that repeated harassment could have been avoided, simply by walking down another block. But I live here, and I am not in the wrong. I should not have to avoid walking down my own street for fear of harassment.
If others have had a similar experience, please do let this construction company know. I refuse to put up with it day after day until their project is done.
Follow-up Email from Lucia to the Cleveland Park Listserv:
The home owner was appalled. She called her contractor who in turn assured us that he would speak with the person involved directly. I did speak with the contractor. He explained to me that he had sub-contracted a roofer who had been on this particular job site for the first time yesterday. He had asked for several references before hiring him and was surprised to hear that said roofer had harassed me. However, he set up a meeting with him, tomorrow, to sort it all out and has asked if I’d be interested in attending to identify the perpetrator directly. I’m still debating that. In any case, this person will not be invited back to the job site.
I cannot say enough about how the homeowner, architect and contractor have decided to react. I feel confident that this will soon be resolved. I do feel badly that this might reflect negatively on their businesses, and ask that we focus the actual perpetrator and the fact that we final say on what becomes the norm in our neighborhood. I am posting this under a new Topic thread in hopes that listserve members realize that the incident was indeed handled very well by the homeowner, architect and contractor.
“I wanted to let you know that I spoke individually with my four regular workers who were at the job site this week. Each had a blank, deer-in-the-headlights look when I inquired about the incident. Two were aware that someone had taken a picture of the project, but did not seem to know why.
In contrast, the roofer who fit the physical description you gave and who was a first-time subcontractor reacted as if he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He did not acknowledge making inappropriate comments, but his facial reaction and the change in body language indicated that he was not comfortable with the discussion. He did state that he looked at a pretty lady walking down the street in the afternoon and that latinos talk a lot when working…maybe she misunderstood. His jaw dropped when I informed him that you speak fluent Spanish.
I realized that in my earlier conversations with the homeowner and you that we had not discussed the time of day when the event occurred. I called the homeowner and confirmed that you had reported it was in the afternoon. With his reference to an afternoon event I am confident that we have identified the source of the problem. I assure you that he will not perform any additional work for our company.
Most of my workers have been with me for many years. Our clients allow us into their homes where we have access to all their possessions. We recognize and value the trust they place in us. I routinely receive compliments from our clients about the care and concern our workers display when working on projects. This incident was in sharp contrast to our business practices, and I extend my sincere apologies.
With best regards,
Case closed. Thanks again for the supportive comments,