Testimony by Adam D. Swanson
Hearing on the Street Harassment Prevention Act
Committee on the Judiciary
John A. Wilson Building, Room 412
1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, D.C., 20004
Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Good afternoon. Thank you Chairman Mendelson and distinguished members of the council for your consideration of the Street Harassment Prevention Act. And thank you to Councilmember Nadeau for your leadership on this important issue.

My name is Adam Swanson. I am a DC voter and I’ve lived in wards 3, 4 and 6. I’m here today to ask you to pass the Street Harassment Prevention Act.

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?

But that’s where we come in today. As dads, moms, friends, siblings – as councilmembers responsible for advancing public safety – we can make a difference. 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.

I encourage the DC City Council to pass the Street Harassment Prevention Act with specific incentives for local bars and restaurants to have staff trained to respond to harassment and sexually aggressive behavior. Fully 50 percent of sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol.

Alcohol doesn’t cause sexual assault, but it is used as a weapon to incapacitate victims or as an excuse for aggressive behavior. We can reduce harassment through education and training, and we can reduce incidents of violence experienced in our community.

Thank you for your time.