“How Do I Decide What Is And Isn’t Street Harassment?”

street harassment in dc

Location: Farragut Square
Time: Morning Rush Hour (5am-9:30am)

I struggle with the word harassment. Is it harassment if it’s not a creepy interaction? Sometimes I feel like they are being polite and just complimentary, but they are still in my space and the interaction is simply unneccessary. Or is this me excusing them from their actions? I feel real conflicted about this. I am approached nearly daily here in DC but most of the time – 70% I would say – they are polite enough and cordial. How do we categorize this grey area?

For example, this morning I was walking from the metro to work thru Farragut Square. A man in a suit sidles up next to me, keeping pace with my fast walk. He sort of casually says, in a familiar sort of tone as if I knew him, “Have you ever been told you are a black man’s dream woman?” I say yes as I keep walking. He says, ok, have a great day and boards his bus. And just last night a man on my bus, as it started to get empty moved from his seat in the back to the one next to mine to tell me he liked my tattoo. Then he says I’m beautiful and could he contact me. I tell him no and he persists a few ways until I tell him I’m a lesbian. He then asks if I want to buy weed. I mean? So I don’t necessarily feel threatened, but I am very aware that at any moment things could go awry depending on their response to my reaction.

Thank you so much for the work you all do. It’s important and is making a difference. I look forward to your posts weekly.

Submitted 10/16/14 by “SW.”

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share 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. You can 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).