On The Reverse “10-5 Rule” and Walking While Female

Yesterday, DC resident Liz Gorman was sexually assaulted in broad daylight in what is considered a “safe” neighborhood in DC.  Here are her own words on her experience.

sexual harassment in dc

CASS was the first outlet to break the news and alert DC residents of Gorman’s assault (after Gorman contacted us), shown here reported on by DC’sWJLA/ABC 7.

Those of us who have worked in the service industry are very familiar of the 10-5 rule. This favorite of overzealous managers, inserted into every training session and employee handbook states that at 10 feet you make eye contact with a guest or customer, and at 5 feet you acknowledge them. Then a brief conversation ensues, the employee exchanges whatever good or service is being sold for money, and the encounter is over. Have a nice day.

While walking down a city street alone, a sort of reverse 10-5 rule exists. No matter the time of day or what you’re wearing. It goes like this: I am walking alone and see a man walking towards me at 10 feet. Maybe instead of looking straight ahead into the distance, I move my eyes to the ground. I slump my shoulders slightly, so maybe my breasts aren’t as prominent. I begin to analyze the width of the sidewalk; am I too close to him? I can’t move too far away, as I might risk offending him. And if I’m too close, well, that may very well be an invitation for something. At 5 feet, I take a small breath and one of two things happens: nothing at all, which I consider a small victory or…something. Something like a kissing sound or a variety of sexually explicit comments. At which point I left with two options: pretend that I don’t hear a damn thing, or risk an additional conversation, which in the past has been anything from a choice silent hand gesture and specific curse words to an extended conversation on mutual respect and common courtesy. It’s usually the curse words, which I wouldn’t recommend for those who can’t take what they dish. And the encounter is over. Have a nice day.

While walking down a city street alone, a sort of reverse 10-5 rule exists. No matter the time of day or what you’re wearing.

And most of us have to deal with this on a daily basis. We change our routes. Maybe I’ll take a left down this street so I don’t have to walk past That Store or That Bus Stop or That House. Maybe I’ll just take a cab when walking wouldn’t take much longer. Maybe I should have worn something else. Maybe I’ll just stay in tonight. There are a lot of “maybes”.

But let’s forget about all of the choices, those maybes, that we know have nothing to do with harassment but we still think about anyway. I was in Dupont Circle at 3:30 pm yesterday and was sexually assaulted while walking. In my hometown, in a nice neighborhood, in broad daylight, in public. I’m a city girl; I walk fast and have rules. A man pulled up behind me on his bicycle and reached up my skirt. He put his finger into my vagina through my underwear. He laughed and biked away. That was it. No 10-5, no catcall. No exchange. I didn’t see his face. At least when I was robbed at gunpoint I knew who to look for on the street.

The cops came within minutes and were exceedingly supportive. I went on with my day: I had lunch with my mom and then drinks with some of my closest friends well into the evening. I received many messages of support and encouragement, and I’m really grateful to have such wonderful people in my life. But one thing that has bothered me is referring to what I did as “brave.” I was simply walking while female. I guess I didn’t realize what a battle it still is out there and how much work we still have to do.

Liz Gorman is a photographer from Washington, DC. Her story was republished and reported on in numerous local and national media outlets, including The Washington PostJezebel, the Washington Post Local (front page Metro section), WJLAWTTG FOXDCistDCblogs and the Washington City Paper.


MORE FROM “My Streets, Too”:

ABOUT “MY STREETS, TOO”
“My Streets, Too” is CASS’s ongoing series on personal writings on street harassment by members of the DC community. Email Renee to submit writings using your full name, initials, or anonymously (just let us know). Please be sure to use the subject line “My Streets, Too.”

Terrifying Experience

Walking alone towards Dupont, hands full of bags, I was surrounded by a group of 5 young men. They circled me and taunted me with things like “I love you baby” and “Where are you going, we’ll walk you there.” One came very close to my face and asked if he could whisper in my ear. They refused to let me pass. People walked by and sat around without doing anything to help me out. I finally gathered my wits enough to tell them as loudly as possible to back off or I was going to start screaming. I guess they thought I just wasn’t worth the fight – they laughed and let me go. This was a terrifying experience, and I was VERY close to feeling like I needed to start using physical violence in self defense. The fact that people looked on as if it were entertainment was sickening. Groups of young men just sitting around on either side of a sidewalk are THREATENING and make Adams Morgan unsafe for women. More police presence is necessary to disperse these groups, and women must carry pepper spray and feel free to use it.

Submitted on 3/22/12 by Anonymous.

Location: 18th and Florida NW, DC

Time: Evening Rush Hour (3:30P-7:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

 

Glover Park Starbucks Harasser

I was standing in line for coffee. I sensed a man come up behind me, but he was standing too close. In my periphery, I could see him moving his hips. He started breathing heavier. He told me my behind looked good in my pants.

Maybe I felt confident because I had people around me; I mustered up the courage to address him. I turned to him and asked, “Excuse me?” He asked, “Oh, is what I said too sexual for you?” I replied, “Yes.” I don’t know why, but he started to leave the store. “You just don’t get enough comfort, lady,” he yelled. The best thing I could yell back was “You just don’t know how to talk to women!”

Not many people in the store reacted, but the manager came from the back and asked what happened. The other workers directed her to me. She apologized for what happened, asked if I was OK and if I wanted to call the police. I was still mad about someone talking to me like that, but this manager really calmed me down when I was most shaken.

The same man came back a few weeks later to flash someone at the same store.

Submitted by Claire on 8/15/2011

Location: Wisconsin Ave NW & Hall Place NW (Glover Park) @Starbucks

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

A Bike Ride Gone Bad

This morning, I was biking to work and I hit the intersection at Columbia and Connecticut Ave NW. There are three lanes at this intersection. One is right turn only, one is to go straight or turn left, and the last is to turn left only. I came up alongside the second lane because I was turning left and got into the intersection right before the light turned red. As I was taking my turn, there was a white taxi cab coming up the right turn only lane who then took a left. He beeped at me for an extended period of time, because now after he made a completely illegal turn, I was in his way.

Traffic started moving down Connecticut and I kicked off down the street as well. The taxi driver came up along the left side of me and started screaming about how I was in the wrong and that I should move my bike off the road. I shouted back that he was in the right hand turn only lane and therefore should not have turned left. He then went my pace the entire time I was on Connecticut and called me a f-ing whore and trash the entire time. I shouted at him again that he was wrong and then started to ask for his taxi number. He ignored both responses and continued calling me names. I turned onto Florida Ave NW and he followed me again. Thankfully he stopped to pick someone up and he stopped following me. However he did shout trash at me one last time as I went by him.

I tried to remember the taxi information but I also did not want to stop on a busy street. The information I can remember is that it was an all white cab (both body and top) with simple black lettering across the side of the cab. The cab number was 577. The phone number (I think) started as 202-577…. and I can’t remember the last four digits. If you come across a cab with similar information and could post about it in the comments so that I could try to take some sort of action then I would greatly appreciate it. I already called the hotel at the intersection and unfortunately their cameras only hit the parking lot and not the street.

I was extremely shaken up by this event and it honestly ruined my entire day. It was supposed to be a good day, I got an awesome job offer today. Now, all I can focus on is the fact that my morning was started off by being called a whore and a piece of trash for a good part of my bike ride.

Submitted by Stacey

Location: Columbia Ave NW & Connecticut Ave NW

Time: Morning Rush Hour (5A-9:30A)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

“I Didn’t Disrespect You”

I was walking down M at 11am when I heard a man say to a woman walking in front of me, “looking good, baby.” She, as a good hollaback girl, responded “please stop.” He proceeded to get on his bike and follow her across the intersection of M and Wisconsin (very busy), shouting “Fuck you!”. Across Wisconsin, the sidewalk narrowed and he got in her face and screamed “I didn’t disrespect you, bitch!”

It was so disturbing to watch and his volume level was scary. I wanted to say something to him, but was honestly too scared that he would follow me on his bike (I was on foot). What’s worse is that none of the many men walking at this busy intersection stopped the man or said anything to the woman.

Submitted by J on 10/28/10.

Location: M and Wisconsin, NW

Time Of Harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.