People often tell you not to mix your personal life with your work life, but today, I made an exception.
I work at Community Forklift, a nonprofit reuse center for home improvement supplies located just outside northeast DC. The Forklift accepts donations of building materials, antiques, appliances, and architectural salvage, and then makes these items available to the public at low cost. The mission is to “lift up our community” by making repairs greener and more affordable, creating green jobs, and donating free materials to our neighbors in need and other nonprofits.
In short, Community Forklift is fantastic and the “Forklift Family” spirit among coworkers is one of the main reasons I chose to work here; however, sometimes our interactions with the outside world fall short of the ethos that we promote in-house:
“I’ll answer a call, and it turns from ‘What are your hours?’ to ‘Hey, you sound real cute. Are you married?’”
“A woman grabbed my bicep while I was just trying to get a ceiling fan down for her.”
“Customers have gotten mad at me when I refused to give them my number.”
So what did I decide to do? Bring my volunteering with CASS to CF, of course!
During our Tuesday staff meeting, we facilitated a workshop on how to respond to public sexual harassment. Staff members shared stories of the types of interactions they had witnessed or experienced themselves before diving into practicing direct responses to harassment. We also discussed bystander intervention and how to read our coworkers’ body language when they’re caught in tough situations. Our CEO spoke up to add, “This type of training is important to ensure not only the safety of all of us in this room, but also the well-being and sense of community that we build for everyone who comes through our doors.”
Overall, the workshop brought new awareness to the staff and offered those who are often targeted a sense of hope:
“I used to think these interactions were normal and sexual harassment didn’t happen much around here, but I just haven’t been paying close enough attention.”
“I didn’t think that what I went through would ‘count’ because I’m a guy, but now I know that [harassment] can affect anyone.”
“I thought it wasn’t going to get any better than hiding, but after this workshop, I feel like my coworkers know how to better support me.”
Want to bring CASS to your own place of work? Email us at email@example.com!
Workshops are just one way that CASS works to empower people in the DC metropolitan area to build a community free from public sexual harassment and assault. Support our work year round by becoming part of the Collective Action Circle!