Last Sunday, we facilitated a workshop on how to respond to public sexual harassment over at the Lamont Street Collective, an intentional community that has been welcoming local artists and activists, hosting shows, and organizing events in their home for over 40 years.
We welcomed one of our newest board members as a participant, along with members of an Asian and Pacific Islander advocacy organization, a woman looking to provide our workshop to her employees, and a number of concerned local residents. (Of course Moo, the Lamont Street Collective dog, also paid very close attention!) When we asked the group why they chose to attend, one woman shared, “My friends and I live in this neighborhood and we deal with harassment every day. We talk about it constantly.”
Facilitators Krystal and Kris worked with the group to define public sexual harassment and why intervention is so important. “These are not compliments or ways to connect with you, or any other excuse that a harasser will give. This is all about control and power. Whenever we say something back, we’re taking our control back.”
Many cited the fear of escalation as a deterrent to responding, expressing that any of the less severe forms of harassment could quickly become more violent should they end up aggravating the harasser. Kris reinforced that safety is the number one priority and stated, “The purpose of this workshop is to give you some tools so that, when you do feel comfortable, you know how to act.”
Participants then practiced a number of possible responses in two scenarios: as direct targets of harassment and as active bystanders intervening in difficult situations. After the exercises, the group felt empowered and ready to take the first steps toward addressing these issues out in the community. One man shared, “I’m usually not very assertive, but saying those lines felt really good… I have coworkers who harass people like this and I feel like now I know what to say to them.” Another joked, “I think I can be the next potato chip man.”
Want to feel a bit more empowered yourself? Join us at our next public workshop on June 20th at Potter’s House. Interested in hosting a workshop for your group? Email us at email@example.com.