Finding Non-Criminal Solutions to Street Harassment

Here at CASS, we think that the key to ending public sexual harassment and assault is true collective action, action that values every voice — including yours — and center the experiences of the most marginalized. In our writing, workshops, and more, we encourage you to find creative, community-based solutions to make your neighborhood, school, or workplace more safe. Calling upon law enforcement is just one intervention out of many.

We think that offering this variety of interventions is empowering and effective — and the research agrees — but there’s more to it, and it’s time we made that explicit. We stand in solidarity with the many survivors and community advocates from communities of color who routinely experience harm from a legal system that perceives them as more “criminal” than others. From their work, we know that the criminal legal system perpetuates and inflicts structural and interpersonal violence against women and LGBTQGNC individuals. We share – and are working to realize – their vision of a world where we overcome the racist and sexist legacies of our nation’s criminal legal system; where individuals are held accountable for harm they cause, and justice works to restore communities instead of tearing them apart.

While developing our strategic plan over the past year, we reviewed our organizational values. And, though we have always stood against further criminalization of harassing behaviors in public, it wasn’t explicit in our original value statements. Starting now, we want to be clear about committing to working with you to find non-criminal solutions to the problem of public sexual harassment and assault. After lengthy discussions and drafting sessions, we’ve added the following statement to our organizational values:

CASS acknowledges that the criminal legal system perpetuates and inflicts structural and interpersonal violence against women and LGBTQGNC individuals, especially those who are people of color. For this reason, CASS does not support further criminalization of public sexual harassment and assault as a strategy to end public sexual violence, and encourages the community to look outside the criminal legal system to address the entrenched structural aspects of this violence. CASS also values the right of every survivor to choose the path that they feel will lead them to healing. In cases in which survivors choose to engage with the criminal legal system, CASS is committed to ensuring that its responses are survivor-centered and trauma-informed. (Emphasis added.)

This is about holding ourselves, and you, accountable for hearing every voice. Some of you may not identify with this new value. Others may find that it resonates deeply. Wherever you stand, we hope that you are with us when we say that it’s only with every voice valued and accounted for that we can address this complicated and entrenched problem. This includes the voice of the person standing on the street corner with you, the person driving the bus, the cyclist next to you, and the law enforcement officer in your neighborhood — people who share your experiences, and people who don’t.

In this same vein, we want to be clear that CASS will always support the right of every survivor to choose the path that will lead them to healing, including the choice to engage with the criminal legal system. We are committed to working alongside survivors and advocates in our community to ensure that the system’s response to these survivors is trauma-informed and survivor-centered.

Check out our organizational values to learn more, and reach out to us at info@collectiveactiondc.org with your thoughts, questions and comments.

PHOTOS: We Showed DC That #ItTakesAllofUs!

#ItTakesAllofUs

• Because in order for all of us (and our families, friends, and neighbors) to be safe, we have to change our culture.
• Because we may all experience gender-based violence, but not all our experiences are the same.
• Because culture change is hard work, but it is not impossible.
• Because all of us have the capacity to make a difference — but we are a LOT more powerful when we do it together.

Here’s our recap of our July 26th event, #ItTakesAllofUs, where you joined us in conversations and workshops to help end sexual violence! The more work for all of you to make DC a safer city, the more we realize how rare and special it is to get together and talk about what we believe in. That’s why it was so incredible to see about 35 of you join us for #ItTakesAllofUs.

On that beautiful day in Malcolm X Park, we shared our stories and skills for every day violence prevention with each other. Most importantly, we committed to working together in the future toward our vision of a city free of gender-based violence. You truly inspired and energized us and we can’t wait to imagine with you again soon!

Want to bring our experienced trainers and facilitators to your next meeting or event? Contact Zosia; zosia@collectiveactiondc.org.

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

collective action for safe spaces street and sexual harassment in dc

How Uber Can Take Action Against Sexual Assault

How Uber Can Take Action Against Sexual Assault

According to media reports and court documents, an UberDC driver was arrested Saturday on a sexual abuse charge after a woman reported the assault to police last month.

We were deeply saddened this week to read the news of a sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by a UberDC driver. According to media reports and court documents, an UberDC driver was arrested Saturday on a sexual abuse charge after a woman reported the assault to police last month. We hope this tragedy will help Uber realize the necessity and urgency of providing safety measures to protect its riders — an issue that CASS has raised with the business numerous times in recent years, including as recently as this spring.

We first reached out to Uber after an UberDC driver was charged with sexually assaulting a female client in December 2012 in Cleveland Park. At the time, we urged Uber to consider mandating anti-sexual assault training for its drivers, a measure that we successfully encouraged Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to implement the same year, which is currently being rolled out. We contacted Uber again earlier this year when the company instituted its $1 “safety fee,” again asking the company to give the community what it really wants in order to feel safe and implement sexual harassment and assault prevention training for its employees.

In order to help illustrate the pressing need for increased safety measures from Uber, we surveyed community members about what safety measures they wanted to see from the rideshare service. According to our survey findings, DC community members strongly want Uber to take preventive measures against sexual assault and use greater transparency when speaking about its safety measures and what it’s doing to address sexual assault. Specifically, community members and Uber clients want to see Uber implement anti-sexual assault trainings for drivers and staff. They also want Uber to establish an online portal, similar to WMATA’s, so that patrons can anonymously report sexual harassment, thereby helping Uber gather information and better address the issue. The message is clear: DC community members want more commitment to safety from transportation services like Uber.

Recently, we’ve seen positive action on behalf of DC businesses in recognizing their part in ending sexual violence. Over the past year, a handful of bars and restaurants have participated in our Safe Bars program, which trains and empowers staff at alcohol-serving establishments to recognize and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and assault. And in addition to WMATA and its ongoing anti-sexual harassment work, we’ve worked with companies like Pepco and Bare Minerals to address sexual harassment. We hope that Uber will also rise to the occasion.

We know only about this most recent sexual abuse allegation against Uber because the survivor chose to report to authorities, but not everyone makes that choice, for a variety of reasons. With sexual assault being one of the most underreported crimes, many similar incidents may go unreported. Safety measures like staff trainings and a process for reporting sexual harassment and assault would help show Uber’s commitment to keeping its clients safe. In the meantime, we at CASS look forward to launching RightRides DC this fall, a program that will provide free and safe late-night rides home for women and LGBTQ folks. No one should fear sexual violence, and everyone deserves a safe ride home. We hope that Uber makes steps to show the community that they feel the same.

Want to help us launch RightRides DC this fall? Donate now.
DonateNow

New Study Finds High Prevalence of Street Harassment – Here’s What You Can Do To Stop It

Groundbreaking new study on street harassment released today

Groundbreaking new study on street harassment released today.

A national study released today by our friend and former board member Holly Kearl is the first to quantify the prevalence and harm done by street harassment in our nation. Combined with the innumerable stories shared on the #YesAllWomen hashtag, providing a clear picture of the emotional impact of entitlement and aggression perpetrated across the spectrum of violence, street harassment conversations are entering the mainstream and finally — hopefully — being taken seriously.

And importantly, victims of public sexual harassment and assault are learning that they are in the company of a majority of Americans: 65% of women and 25% of men. To me, as someone who talks about these issues often and is always answered by strikingly similar stories (“I was on the subway, trying to get home, when a guy”…;”I was standing on the street corner, and out of nowhere…”; “I feel like I’m running the gauntlet every day…”), these numbers seem low.

Holly’s report confirms a number of things about street harassment that CASS has been teaching people in the DC area for over five years:

  • It starts early: Holly finds that 50% of women and men who experienced harassment were first harassed before the age of 17 — even as early as 11 or 12.
  • It’s a human rights issue: Men who identified as LGBT were more likely to report harassment than men who identified as heterosexual, showing that harassment is a gender issue writ large.
  • It’s not just “street” harassment: Respondents reported being harassed in stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and public transportation.
  • It threatens our safety and affects our lives: A majority of respondents who experienced harassment said they were concerned it would escalate into physical violence. And many said they constantly assess their surroundings, travel only in groups, or even move neighborhoods or change jobs to avoid it.
  • It reflects other inequalities: People of color, people from low-income communities, and people identifying as LGBTQ were disproportionately impacted by street harassment overall.

The study is an incredible addition to the body of knowledge around street harassment and a powerful argument that this problem deserves the attention of communities across the country. We congratulate Holly and all of Stop Street Harassment for their important work. While many questions are left to be addressed in future studies, one in particular resonates with us: what are we going to do about it?

Our answer? Collective action! With a problem so big, so normalized, so highly prevalent, and so damaging to individuals and the neighborhoods they live and work in, the only sustainable solution is community-driven culture change. This means that everyone, regardless of status or identity, has a part to play in ending street harassment. Indeed, it takes a village to build a community where people of all backgrounds, gender expressions or identities, and experiences can feel safe occupying public spaces.

Thousands of people here in the nation’s capital have already undertaken the daunting task of culture change, and at CASS we have witnessed first-hand the power we have when we take collective action. Here are some examples:

PREVENTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT & ASSAULT ON METRO
After mobilizing the community to show policymakers that sexual harassment on public transit is a serious problem, CASS has worked with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to implement policies and programming to prevent sexual harassment and assault on DC’s public transit system.

TRAINING NEW ANTI-HARASSMENT ACTIVISTS
CASS holds innovative workshops to empower the community to take action to prevent public sexual harassment and assault, challenging harmful social norms that propagate gender-based violence and developing concrete skills to respond to street harassment on both an individual and community level. So far, we’ve trained hundreds of new anti-harassment activists all over DC.

MAKING BARS SAFER SPACES
Bar staff should be at the front lines of sexual violence prevention, but businesses are typically overlooked as stakeholders in culture change. Safe Bars, a project of CASS and Defend Yourself, trains and empowers staff at alcohol-serving establishments to recognize and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and assault among patrons and staff.

SHARING STORIES TO SPUR ACTION
CASS’s blog provides a platform for personal stories of gender-based public sexual harassment and assault DC, documenting the issue and building a community dedicated to its prevention.

ADVOCATING FOR SURVIVORS
CASS is a founding member of the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign, which, in an unprecedented survivor-led effort, successfully pushed for wide-ranging changes in the way DC police handle sexual assault complaints. We continue to facilitate spaces for survivors to engage with the systems meant to serve them.

PROVIDING SAFE TRAVEL OPTIONS FOR WOMEN & LGBT FOLKS
Too often, the solution to keeping yourself safe from harassment and assault put forth by authorities and policymakers is to limit your movements at night or take private transportation. But this fails to protect people who can’t make those changes for economic or other reasons. We are raising funds to implement a program called RightRidesDC, which will provide safe, free late-night rides home to women and LGBTQGNC individuals on weekends.

The best solutions to ending street harassment are the ones that you haven’t thought of yet. Check out Stop Street Harassment’s groundbreaking new study — and then go out into your neighborhood and take action!

Recommended Reading:

7 Steps You Can Take To Address Street Harassment
5 Excuses for Street Harassment We Need To Stop Making…Now
Statistics: Here’s Why Street Harassment is a Big Deal

BREAKING: DC Council Passes Landmark Sexual Assault Reforms With Final Vote

DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)

May 6, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Renee Davidson
DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)
renee@collectiveactiondc.org 

Landmark Legislation to Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault Passes Final Vote
Success Comes After Year of Grassroots Organizing

Washington, D.C. — The DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is elated that today DC Council cast the final of two votes to pass the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (SAVRAA), landmark legislation to improve how the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) manages sexual assault cases and treats survivors of sexual assault.

The passage of the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act comes over a year after the DC JSC, a survivor-led grassroots coalition, was established in response to evidence of police mismanagement of sexual assault cases in the District. The pivotal legislation, called SAVRAA, includes all criteria for which the DC JSC mobilized support, including: 1) Granting sexual assault survivors the right to have a sexual assault victim advocate present during hospital forensic exams and in subsequent in-person police interviews; 2) Mandating the prompt processing of rape kits; 3) Providing sexual assault survivors the right to the results of their rape kits and toxicology tests; 4) Mandating that an independent consultant make semi-annual public reports on progress that MPD makes in implementing reforms; 5) Codifying DC’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and requires it to conduct case review; 6) Requiring an annual report on sexual assault from agencies that handle cases and evidence; 7) Establishing a task force to recommend further reform to the system, including additional roles for advocates, an effective system for complaints and juvenile sexual assault system reforms.

The long-awaited passage of SAVRAA is a monumental step both in supporting survivors of sexual assault and improving DC’s sexual assault response system. “This legislation means that those who report sexual assault in the District can expect that their cases will be followed through as efficiently as possible, and that they will be treated with fairness and respect,” said Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, DC JSC organizer and Executive Director of the DC Rape Crisis Center. “This was a survivor-driven advocacy effort, and we thank the brave men and women who testified and shared their stories in order to achieve today’s success,” added DC JSC organizer Marisa Ferri.

The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act will now be passed onto the Mayor to be signed into law.

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Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and National Organization for Women, DC Chapter (DC NOW), the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is a grassroots coalition of sexual assault survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase and codify the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia.