“I deserve to feel safe while going out.”

Location: Black Cat (14th and U Street NW DC)
Time: Late Night (12am-5am)

On Friday night, I went to the Black Cat for Lady Parts Justice’s Pro-choice Prom – the kind of amazing, progressive fundraising event that Black Cat is known to graciously host. That’s why what happened after the event, when my friends and I headed to the downstairs bar of the Black Cat, was so surprising. My friend and I were sitting at the bar when a group of men approached us.

One of the men started talking to us, but when I made it clear that I definitely wasn’t interested in him or his awful Richard Spencer haircut, he got more physically aggressive. He touched me and roughly grabbed my shoulder, and when I told him to get off of me, he turned to my friend and put his hand on her upper thigh. I pulled his hand off of my friend, which angered him. I told him that it’s not respectful to touch women you don’t know without their consent – he responded by pretending to apologize while forcefully grabbing my shoulder again.  The group surrounded me and my friends.  One of the men pulled up his hoodie and stood inches from me, trying to physically intimidate me.

At that point, I turned to the bartender and requested her assistance. I told her that I probably should have approached her sooner, but that this group of men was getting increasingly aggressive and we needed help. The bartender took it seriously at first, but then another member of the group came up to me, roughly grabbed my shoulder and pressed himself up against my back, and halfheartedly said, “Sorry.” I told the man to get away from me, but he wouldn’t. I looked to the bartender for help. She said something along the lines of that he was attempting to apologize, so there was nothing more she could do. As I recall, she also suggested that I was overreacting. Both she and the other bartender called the manager and refused to assist us any further.

Situations like this can be really confusing for a bartender – they really might not know how to handle it. All of the people involved in this incident had been drinking, including myself. However, my friend and I needed help, and these bartenders did not handle the situation appropriately. For the record, I was inebriated, but I feel like I was pretty calm and collected, and I definitely wasn’t overreacting (I think it’s pretty fair to not want a strange man wearing a smelly wrestling fanboy shirt touching you and breathing down your neck when you’re just trying to enjoy your Friday night).   

Unfortunately, the bartenders did not act appropriately in this situation. They allowed my friend and I to be harassed, and refused to remove the group from the bar. When the bar manager finally spoke with me, she agreed that the situation had not been handled appropriately and promised me that the group had been removed from the bar (they hadn’t) and the bar was being closed early. 

I’m calling out Black Cat for allowing this group of people to sexually harass and intimidate my friends and me. I deserve to feel safe while going out, and until this incident is addressed, I know that Black Cat, no matter how many progressive events they host, isn’t a safe place to be.

Submitted 7/11/17 by “JR”

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