After three similar attacks in the Eastern Market area this month, the community voiced their concerns that women are being targeted for violence. In one case, a young woman was forced by her knife-wielding attacker into an alleyway, where he pulled up her skirt. When she resisted, he stabbed her in the neck and ran off with her possessions. These attacks and subsequent community outcry come on the heels of a public sexual assault that was perpetrated around the Minnesota Ave. Metro station in March.
Our hearts go out to residents of both communities. To any of our followers in those areas: we are here as a resource for you as you work through this problem, and we encourage you to reach out any time.
And when we heard reports that the MPD representatives at Wednesday’s safety meeting in Capitol Hill were encouraging women to not walk around late at night and avoid carrying bags, we were concerned.
Too often, the immediate response to a crisis of safety is to ask women to restrict their movements and change their behaviors. This “solution” places power in the hands of perpetrators and fails to protect the people who have to move around at night for work or any other reason. Instead of focusing on how victims can change, try something new: harness the power of the community and send a message that victims will be supported and perpetrators will be held accountable. In other words, take collective action!
Here are just three examples of what form that could take, inspired by things that have happened right here in DC (there are many, many more great examples from around the country and the world!):
- Talk to your neighbors about what sexual aggression looks like and how to safely step in when they see something happening (call us up if you want to be trained on bystander intervention!).
- Get everyone together to work on a public art project that puts anti-violence messaging where it can’t be ignored.
- Organize a demonstration to show that your community stands together against violence, like the one put together in 2012 by concerned Bloomingdale residents after two of their neighbors were targeted and attacked for their sexuality.
Again: we are here as a resource for folks who want to take organize their community to end public sexual harassment and assault! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or training requests. Any other ideas, thoughts, or words of support for the people of Deanwood and Capitol Hill? Leave them in the comments — and then get out onto the streets!