#MeToo in Ward 8: Triggered Documentary Screening & Community Discussion


Earlier this month, our policy team co-hosted a community event in Ward 8 with Grassroots DC to talk about street harassment, gendered violence, and ways we can make change in our community: starting with the Street Harassment Prevention Act (affectionately called SHPA).

The event included a screening of Triggered: Street Harassment and Rape Culture in DC’s Ward 8, which was produced by Liane Scott, president of Grassroots DC. Scott’s film documents the events that took place at the Reclaiming Our Bodies speakout last year. The speakout was prompted by the harassment of a teenage girl and her mother when they were in line for a free meal at a community food table. Instead of getting a meal, they got an earful about how the girl’s attire—a t-shirt, tied at the waist, and leggings—justified harassment and threats of violence by men in the community, including the men serving the food. (SO not ok.)

After the screening, community leaders, including our own Rethink Masculinity co-director Stephen Hicks, took part in a panel discussion on street harassment in the District—and how it’s not about what people are wearing, it’s about a harasser exerting power and control. Stephen Hicks also shared that people, especially men, learn toxic scripts about how to treat themselves and women. He reiterated that people need to un-learn these scripts about masculinity–something CASS’s program on Rethink Masculinity is proud to do.

As panelist Dr. Pamela Brewer, a clinical social worker and therapist said, “None of this is about what you are wearing. All of this is about power.”

Panelists also discussed how race and racism are inextricably linked to street harassment, and how men need to be part of the movement to end gendered violence. Aja Taylor, affordable housing advocate director at Bread for the City and an anti-harassment activist with Reclaiming Our Bodies DC, called attention to the double burden that black women face each day, experiencing harassment due to both patriarchy and white supremacy. Her words were affirmed by an audience member, who added that “Black women have not had an outlet to talk about the violence [they] have faced.”

Hicks also described how our Rethink Masculinity program pushes for societal change: participants are pushed to see the women in their lives as whole beings. Men are too often socialized to see women and queer folks as less than whole beings, as only conduits for pleasure. Panelist Schyla Pondexter-Moore, the mother of the girl who was harassed in the original incident, lifted up the importance of listening to victims of sexual harassment. “If you want to solve the problem, you have to go to the girl and ask her, what would you like to have done as a victim?”

Tony Lewis, Jr., a DC native and author of the book Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration, added, “As men, we may be violating women and we may not even be aware. This [harassment at the community food table] is not an isolated issue of trauma and pain.” Panelist Aja Taylor affirmed the prevalence of trauma in black communities and its role in perpetuating violence: “Trauma [from harassment, from racism] is unnatural. It happens to everyone, but it’s unnatural, and people expect you to have a natural response to something unnatural.”

This event was just the beginning of the very necessary yet often-painful conversation about gendered street harassment.

We need you to help build a campaign for DC to invest in community-based solutions to street harassment. Volunteers help mobilize supporters, engage with DC Council, and bridge arts and activism. Email leah@collectiveactiondc.org to join.

I Won’t #TakeaKnee Until the Movement Against Police Brutality Centers Women of Color

Editor’s note: TW for domestic violence.

I’ve been hesitant to #TakeaKnee.

I am of course always inspired and energized by new advocates joining the movement for the first time. We all started somewhere. We are all on a journey. Our political analysis evolves over time with exposure, experience, and community accountability. I am grateful to Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee and for being outspoken about white supremacy and state violence. And I am grateful that NFL players are kneeling in solidarity.

But I’m tired of gendered violence taking a back seat.

Amid the headlines and national outrage this weekend, people seem to have forgotten — or conveniently erased — the experiences of Black women and women of color as victims and survivors of state violence. Because yes, state violence affects women of color, too. Today, Paris Knox is in court in Chicago, appealing her 40-year sentence for defending herself against her partner when he showed up at her home.

Police brutality doesn’t necessarily manifest the same way for women and femmes of color as it does for men. In many cases, women’s experiences with state violence are tied to their experiences with domestic violence. Fifty percent of women’s homicides are by a partner, and Black women have the highest intimate partner homicide rates. And yet in the cases when Black women fight to survive, they often face incarceration, perceived as having no selves to defend like Paris Knox and Bresha Meadows. Women are even held accountable for the violence of their abusers with “failure to protect” laws. In 2014, a Buzzfeed News investigation found 73 cases of mothers who were sentenced to 10 or more years in prison between 2004 and 2014; 38% of these mothers were domestic violence survivors. Just last year, Danielle Whyte was charged with manslaughter when her boyfriend strangled her infant son to death and then threatened to kill her if she called police.

With state violence against women of color so frequently tied to our experiences with domestic violence, it is difficult for me, as a woman of color and as a domestic violence survivor once jailed for self-defense, to kneel with NFL players, many of whom have been accused of domestic violence or sexual assault.

And the NFL’s gendered violence problem is surpassed still by law enforcement officers. Between 24 and 40 percent of police officer families have experienced domestic violence, up to four times as a high as the rate of the general population. Police sexual assault is also the second most common form of police brutality, with a police officer caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days, and this data doesn’t include the officers who never got caught. It also doesn’t include most incidents of police sexually assaulting sex workers, which in some states police assert is their right.

Too frequently, these narratives are missing from the larger conversation about police brutality, an omission that Andrea Ritchie works to highlight in her new book Invisible No More.

For women of color to be included, state violence and gendered violence must be tackled simultaneously.

When I think about the divisions in this movement, I also think about my own experience in an abusive relationship: how shocked I was when he hit me. It was surreal to me that this betrayal would come from someone so close to me — my own partner who I loved and shared a home with. I saw the barriers he was facing to becoming sober and nonviolent, and I was invested in his progress: I believed that his success was my success was our success. He always made me believe that he was fighting for me, for us. I believed that we were in that fight together.

I spent years focusing on his needs, believing that if we could solve the problems that he was facing then eventually that work would pay off and end his violence against me. But instead it kept getting worse, as abusive relationships often do. The violence escalated, and I could have lost my life in that relationship.

Too often, anti-violence movements feel like abusive relationships themselves. Black women and women of color are consistently asked and expected to fall in line. We are told that we must prioritize the needs of Black men in the movement against state violence and the needs of white women in the movement against gendered violence. We are shamed, silenced, and gaslighted when we ask if our needs will also be addressed and included in this fight. We are called “divisive” for asking to be included.

I’m hesitant to put my life on the line again for men who tell me that we’re in this fight toward liberation together when we’re not.

It should not take away from your needs to also acknowledge my needs. If you can’t say that my needs are just as important as yours, if you don’t speak out against gendered state violence, if you believe that somehow seeing and speaking up about my needs takes away from your cause or your movement, then you’ve already thrown me under the bus to drive forward without me.

And I’m tired of fighting for men who aren’t fighting for me.

If you believe that this message is divisive, that it takes away somehow from the masses who connected to Kaepernick, remember that you are dividing two issues and two movements that for me are completely intertwined.

Image credit: loveandprotect.org

“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”

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).

Getting harassed inside your own apartment? #NopeDC


















Location: 12th Street NW between Mass and M
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

I was in my apartment and taking something out of the oven. A fire truck was outside my apartment building since the fire alarm had been going off for an hour or so. Two firemen had been in the ladder which had been extended to the roof. As I was taking the food out of the oven, I heard, “Show me more, show me more!!” I looked over and a white fireman in the ladder was at my apartment windows level. He had a smirk and was giving me the thumbs up sign. My top was hanging a bit loose over my chest as I was reaching down to the oven and I realized he could see.

When I tried to pull the blinds down he yelled, “No pull it up show me more show me more.” When I finally was able to lower the blinds, he said don’t worry I’ll get a view from below.”

I asked to speak to the captain, who was patronizing and said I’ve known this guy for 30 years, he would never do that. He tried to say he was seeing if there was smoke — they firemen had already been to apartments to check if there was smoke. If he was really concerned, he could have asked, is there a fire in your apartment, is there smoke?

Submitted 5/20/17 by “PN”

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).

Love Is…Respect

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. The month provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about abuse in teen and young adult relationships and promote programs that prevent it – because dating violence is more common than you might think. 

In fact, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average—and the rate is even higher for women of color and trans women. These violent relationships have serious consequences for victims, putting them at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide and adult re-victimization.

Want to help spread the word and stop dating violence in our community?


Respect Week: February 13th-17th
Go to www.loveisrespect.org/resources/teendvmonth/ to get the National Respect Week toolkit. The DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence also sponsoring Respect Week DC during the week, so check out their toolkit for sample social media posts and actions!

Wear Orange for Love: February 14th
Join us in promoting healthy relationships for all young people this February by wearing orange on February 14, 2017 as part of the annual #Orange4Love campaign!

Real Week: February 20th-24th
It’s time to get real about relationships. The good, the bad and everything in between—it’s time to say what’s really on our minds when it comes to teen dating abuse. For more details, go to www.breakthecycle.org/realweek.

Teens Helping Teens: Empowering Young People to Support Each Other: Feb. 23, 4:30 p.m.
Studies show that teens are more likely to go to their friends for help or support. This webinar, aimed at adult allies (educators, parents, youth organizations), will provide information and strategies for teaching young people about healthy relationships and how to support one another. Register here.

Is your organization hosting any events or activities for National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month? Tell us in the comments or email claire@collectiveactiondc org and we’ll spread the word!

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