Black women and girls speak out against street harassment following attack in Southwest DC

Tonight women from Ward 8 will organize Reclaiming Our Bodies, a food table and speakout to tell their community that women and girls deserve to feel safe from harassment in public spaces. Organized in response to an incident where a 16-year-old girl was harassed, followed, and threatened at a monthly food table in Ward 8, the speakout will give community members an opportunity to share their personal experiences with harassment and demonstrate support for non-criminal, community-based solutions to street harassment on a citywide level.

“Society will try to make women and girls believe that it is normal to be harassed in the street by men. We are told to cover up, watch where we go, watch what we do, and not be comfortable in our own skin. On the 23rd, we say NO to this culture,” said Schyla Pondexter-Moore, organizer of the speakout and mother of the attacked teen. “We have a right to wear what we want! We shouldn’t be telling women and girls to not get raped and harassed. We need to tell men not to rape and harass.”

According to a 2014 study by Stop Street Harassment, 65% of women will experience street harassment, a problem that disproportionately impacts women of color and LGBTQGNC people. Another study by the Black Women’s Blueprint shows that 60% of Black girls will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18, and a 2017 CDC report showed that Black women are twice as likely to be murdered than women of any other racial identity.

In D.C., pending legislation entitled the Street Harassment Prevention Act seeks to address gendered violence using a three-pronged approach, including citywide data collection, an awareness campaign offering support and resources to those targeted, and training for government employees on how to prevent and interrupt incidents of harassment. The bill will help to prevent incidents of violence against women with a non-punitive, non-criminal approach.

Press is invited to attend the speakout, which will take place at 3900 South Capitol Street Southwest on Wednesday, August 23rd from 5 to 9 PM.

We Spoke Out: Now, Let’s Keep Pushing to #PassSHPA!

We had a powerful day of testimonies at the DC City Council meeting on July 12th in support of the Street Harassment Prevention act (SHPA).  

“When I was 21, two men drugged me at a bar and raped me. If my bartender had noticed the signs of sexual aggression, or the signs of date rape drugs, my life could have been different. If another patron had known how to recognize the signs of two men preparing to sexually assault a 21-year- old man, perhaps I would know what justice looks like. At the hospital, I reported it to the police. After completing a rape kit, the first words out of my detective’s mouth were, “We have these gay boys that go home with each other every night, wake up with their wallets missing, and expect us to do something about it.” Discrimination, be it overt or subtle, leads individuals to mistrust the very systems intended to provide safety after a crisis. Leaving us wondering, where do we go for help? … We can ensure other people don’t suffer the same fate. Because this isn’t just my story. It’s the story of thousands — thousands of people face dangerous street harassment in our city.” – Adam Swanson

“The [Street Harassment Prevention Act] cannot come at more important moment. I’m more scared than I used to be. I am concerned that we are living in times with increasing violence against women and religious and ethnic minorities. The horrible event in Portland where fellow passengers were killed for standing up to a man who was harassing two African American women, one in a hijab, shows the importance that law enforcement and the wider public be trained to intervene when street harassment occurs, especially in ways that de-escalate a situation.” – Jennifer Bianca Browning

We’re still collecting all of the testimonies, but a few of them are up here.

The bill will broaden the definition of street harassment to include our most marginalized communities. And the SHPA will create mechanisms of data collection and training requirements to make sure that everyone’s experience of street harassment is recognized and addressed.

Here’s How You Can Help Pass SHPA:

1) Call your councilmember and tell them why you support the bill. Check your Ward. If you or your friends live in Wards 3 or 7, call or Tweet at your councilmembers and tell them to #PassSHPA. At-large members represent all of DC, so everyone should call and Tweet at Councilmember Bonds.

Here’s a sample phone script: Hi, my name is _______ and I’m a DC resident. I’m calling to ask Councilmember [Your Councilmember or At-Large Councilmember] to pass the Street Harassment Prevention Act. In a time of rising hate and harassment that disproportionately affects women and LGBTQ people of color, we need community-based, non-criminal solutions like education, awareness, and training to make DC safer for everyone. Thank you.

Here’s a sample Tweet: Harassment is on the rise in the District. As a concerned resident, I’m asking you to take action – #PassSHPA! [Twitter handle of your Councilmember or At-Large Councilmember]

And here is the contact information you can plug in:

  • Ward 3: Contact Councilmember Mary Cheh at (202) 724-8062 or on Twitter at @MaryCheh
  • Ward 7: Councilmember Vincent Gray at (202) 724-8068 or on Twitter at @VinceGrayWard7
  • At-Large: Councilmember Anita Bonds at (202) 724-8064 or on Twitter at @AnitaBondsDC

2) Tweet your general support.

3) Speak out against street harassment on August 23rd.

to my mans:

Editor’s note: This is part of a series from our Rethink Masculinity program with ReThink and DC Rape Crisis Center. The author, Stephen Hicks, is co-director of the Rethink Masculinity program and stylistically decided to not use capitalization.

“young black males, like all boys in patriarchal culture, learn early that manhood is synonymous with the domination and control over others, that simply by being male they are in a position of authority that gives them the right to assert their will over others, to use coercion and/or violence to gain and maintain power” (c) bell hooks, we real cool

true indeed.

i guess this is a fine time to declare #NotAllMen or a similar tone at the outset, for painting with broad strokes may be inaccurate. for the moment, i choose not to. many of us — specifically cisgender, heterosexual black men — are in need of healing; however, the resources aren’t widely promoted or readily available or not started yet. in this void of healing, our toxic masculinity thrives, threatens, and tortures us. and without fail, this toxicity directly affects our partners, families, friends, and communities. our thirst for power has afflicted more than comforted.

black cishet (in twitter speak):

race, gender identity, and sexual orientation are important to name because each facet provides context to our dilemma. slavery was not an isolated incident and its legacy birthed many ills which we are grappling with today. i hope we continue to grapple with them and move to a space of reconciliation and healing. i, myself, am in need of healing and want to support others in their journeys. in the rethink masculinity course, i was compelled to re-examine and revisit what i’ve deemed as normal, default masculinity. it was mostly healthy (i guess, sorta. nah). yet, i also recognized and still recognize much of what is considered normal is still us settling for our own mediocrity. maybe the normal and default is still steeped in toxicity.

then i thought about normal, default masculinity within the black american experience. there are levels to this.

a possible conundrum: toxic masculinity won’t allow us to be labeled victims — violated by white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. and toxic masculinity won’t allow us to see how these systems have hurt us and how we’ve internalized this oppression and used it to hurt other black people: other cishet black men, black women, black queer folks, black trans* folks, and black children. our eagerness for some semblance of power has caused much damage and it’s high time we acknowledge this and make amends.

unhealthy and toxic masculinity within my black american experience has looked like:

  • my former colleague, a black queer man, not feeling comfortable in the barbershop because of the homophobic comments he’s heard when the shop is packed on saturday mornings.
  • my friend who was molested as a child not afforded the trust of his adult caretakers to believe him and to confront his abuser. instead, those adults dismissed my friend’s accusations and continue to heap praise on the abuser for being a model citizen
  • thinking and acting as if it’s okay for men to comment on people’s bodies and what sexual desires they have for them. Them, being perfect strangers on the street, in the office, or on the metro platform
  • my former partner being silenced by my need to hog up the space and my sense of entitlement that called for her to do my emotional labor
  • going to a church where the women do everything but can’t hold the title of key figurehead due to biblical interpretation
  • when my most urgent concern of the weekend is where the hoes at?
  • not speaking up when my friend uses the t-word in a group email

i don’t believe in a magical fix. this work of undoing toxic behavior will take time and may be a lifelong practice. we can start now. i think we are worth it. i believe we will move closer to healing by looking at our toxic masculinity.

i no longer assert myself as the know-it-all, but i want to offer some suggestions:

  • hold other black men accountable. as i often say, “he ain’t ya mans if he doesn’t say anything while you bask in mediocrity.”
  • be critical of rape culture and how you’ve operated in this paradigm.
  • read black women writers. black women have sustained the black american family and community and so often get relegated to second tier. i started with audre lorde and bell hooks and found myself reading all of the archived blogs on crunk feminist collective. some of the most hard-hitting thought leaders are on twitter and tumblr too.
  • read black queer writers. black queer writers and black women writers are not mutually exclusive identities. black queer folks live at so many intersections of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. there’s richness in delving into those many, many perspectives. check out janet mock, alice walker, and james baldwin.
  • contact Collective Action for Safe Spaces about their next cycle of rethink masculinity 8-week course. applications are now open for the fall 2017 session and close on august 23rd. if you’re out of the DMV area, look into similar programs in your area.

He said he was asking for directions…

Location: East Capitol & 15th St SE

Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

I was out for a run and a man stopped his car to ask for directions. As I tried to help, I realized he had his penis out and he was masturbating. I told him I didn’t know what he was looking for and kept running. I wasn’t able to get the plate number and didn’t feel like I had enough identifying information so I didn’t call to report it.

Submitted 6/6/17 by “VB”

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).

Join Us to #PassSHPA!

For far too many of us, street harassment is a fact of daily life. Street harassment, however, is more than just catcalling on the street. Someone might be targeted by a harasser for any number of reasons, including actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, and housing status. With a significant increase in hate violence in the District since Trump’s election — including white supremacist posters in Bloomingdale just last week — CASS is more committed than ever to addressing all types of street harassment in our city. That’s why we partnered with D.C. City Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau to introduce the Street Harassment Prevention Act of 2017

The Street Harassment Prevention Act, which we affectionately call SHPA, will broaden the definition of street harassment to include our most marginalized communities. And the SHPA will create mechanisms of data collection and training requirements to make sure that everyone’s experience of street harassment is recognized and addressed.

CASS and our partner organizations know that we need holistic solutions to the problem of street harassment that rely on community-based initiatives rather than law enforcement.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Tweet. Join CASS for a Twitter Town Hall on June 29th at 8 p.m. to discuss street harassment in DC and #PassSHPA.
  2. Organize. Before the Twitter Town Hall tonight, join CASS and CM Nadeau at Sudhouse at 6 p.m. to learn how you can plug in to advocacy work.
  3. Testify. Share your story of harassment with the DC Council on Wednesday, July 12th.
  4. Amplify. Join our Thunderclap to share your support of the SHPA. 
  5. Share all of the above with your friends!

This is the perfect opportunity to engage in local activism and protect your friends and neighbors. Let’s #PassSHPA!

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