Location: 14th & Harvard St NW (Columbia Heights)
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)
I want to preface this entry by explaining two things: firstly, I am a straight male and have experienced street harassment…possibly one time in my entire life; secondly, I am not writing about one incident, but many experiences that I am privy to secondarily because I have female friends and a girlfriend. My roommate does work for CASS and I have asked her on multiple occasions after I hear about a friend being harassed…”but is there something I can * do * ?” Because for me, now that I have analyzed my feelings on the matter, I feel like my anger primarily centers around the helplessness and powerlessness I feel about stopping street harassment. Really, the only thing I suppose I can do is write out my feelings; because if I have learned one thing in my life, it’s that holding onto resentment can really poison your insides.
Two separate times in my life I have received text messages from important women in my life riding one of the 90 busses (sic) at night, saying something along the lines of: “There is a crazy guy trying to talk to me.” My response is always the same: “Do you want me to call you so you at least have an excuse to break off conversation and so you are connected to someone?” In one of these instances, the man continued harassing my friend even after she picked up my call – mocking her for having a friend call because he was making her uncomfortable. I cannot really find words to describe the frustration, fear, and angry helplessness I felt during that instance. Being able to hear a friend harassed, simply for being a woman on a bus, but not even being able to physically intervene is not an experience I would wish on anyone.
Recently I was walking with my girlfriend, in Columbia Heights, on Harvard Street between 14th and 13th Streets. We passed a group of teenager who were posted up outside one of the houses. I nodded in acknowledgement as we passed. One thing I always try to do is acknowledge people I pass on the street – it’s just the polite thing to do. Anyway, as we passed by, one of the boys addressed me, “What’s up base god? Can I fuck your girl, base god?” I simply ignored him and continued walking. My girlfriend had not even heard his remark; but I still felt upset by his comment. I felt like any retaliation while severely outnumbered by teenagers was going to land me a beat down, but I certainly wanted to say * something *.
This morning my girlfriend described a man stopping while she walked past him, stretching out his arms saying “Hold up, I got to make way for this beautiful woman.” I asked her how she felt during this. “Awkward,” she said. Then she told me that on her way to work this morning two men walked toward her, and entered her path so that she had to walk between them as they muttered comments to her. And here I sit, across the city, in my office, wondering what I could have done to prevent these things; or to as least shield her. But you see from above, that even my presence does not deter certain men from harassing my girlfriend.
She recently moved to DC, and I the first day we walked around Columbia Heights, especially the 1400 block of Columbia Road, I felt how my life had changed. Prior to her moving here, when we were long-distance, I never thought twice about walking down that block. I nodded at teenagers as I passed by, and they nodded back generally. Suddenly now though, as I’m walking arm in arm my girlfriend, I see the looks on the faces of these men and boys change. Even when they are not saying anything, I still see “the look,” the leeriness in their eyes. When I walk through the city with my girlfriend, I am never really carefree. I am constantly scanning the block, watching for potential harassers, and contemplating my next move should we be on the verge of interacting with one of these suspicious characters. The world should not be like this – but the truth is that men derive a perverse pleasure out of belittling and intimidating women. These women are my girlfriend, my close friend, even my sister. Everyone woman is these things to someone, who probably feels as powerless as I do to stop the harassment sometimes.
Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 9/13/13 by “PG.”
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): www.wmata.com/harassment 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. If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).