In April 2011, we joined forces with Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment (SSH) to conduct the first ever Community Safety Audits in DC. The goal of the audits was to collect data to help inform public safety recommendations to the DC City Council and other local decision-makers. The audit was designed to assess the safety and accessibility of public spaces, as street harassment limits women’s and LGBTQ people’s access to public spaces. CASS and Stop Street Harassment adapted the community audit structure from a model used in Toronto by the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence against Women & Children (METRAC).
We held the first audit on the first-ever annual International Anti-Street Harassment Day, Sunday, March 20, 2011, and the second audit on Wednesday, March 23, 2011. Sixteen teams composed of a total of 80 volunteers spread out in each of the city’s eight wards and surveyed safety conditions, including loitering, lighting and needs for repairs. The teams canvased two neighborhoods in each District ward by both day and night to determine whether “women and LGBTQ folks can navigate the public spaces of D.C. freely without fear.”
Inspired by our brethren in Egypt, we took on a relatively new museum in the DC area, the National Crime and Punishment Museum and their exhibit during Valentine’s weekend 2011 called “Crimes of Passion.”
Many of us asked us why we decided to create a Change.org petition demanding the museum stop this exhibit, or at the very least, not bring it back next year, particularly since the exhibit is not related to public sexual harassment and assault. We did it because
- Domestic violence is interrelated to the causes of public sexual harassment and assault and;
- A museum shouldn’t be marketing off the misnamed and uneducated views on domestic violence.
Don’t get us wrong, we are all for people consensually getting handcuffed and enjoying each other.
Also, to many of those naysayers, we are FOR freedom of speech. By drafting a petition and doing media interviews, we have exercised our privileges, just like it is your privilege to attend an ill informed museum exhibit.
Now that we have that straight, let’s get to the unwrapping of a petition:
- On February 7, individuals brought to our attention the “Crimes of Passion” exhibit with marketing materials of OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson.
- On February 8, we reached out to the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence asking them if and how they plan to address the exhibit. Karma Cottman stated that after speaking with the COO, the museum agreed to hand out resources and put language on their website about “the prevalence of DV and underscoring the fact that DV is not a crime of passion.”
- On February 9, the HBDC! Board voted develop a petition asking that the museum stop the exhibit, or at the very least, not bring it back in the coming years.
- The petition went live on February 10. Our goal was to collect 500 signatures.
- Starting February 11, the media started knocking and writing: WAMU’s DCentric, WTOP, NBC4, WaPo, Change.org, and the Associated Press.
- We emailed it our networks/listserves, tweeted, blogged and posted the petition on Facebook for several days.
- The Museum continues to state that the exhibit is not about domestic violence. Yet, they continue to give resources and keep the language up about domestic violence. Further, in the exhibit, they highlight at least two cases of domestic violence.
We will not stop until the National Crime and Punishment Museum takes our requests seriously. We had over 300 people sign the petition, and although the Museum continued with the exhibit this year, we will insist that if it brings back the “Crimes of Passion” exhibit next year that they market the event differently, and not highlight and mock those who died due to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not a crime of passion; it’s a crime of hatred, jealously, and control. None of those adjectives describe our version of passion. If a museum labels domestic violence a crime of passion, we shiver to think how they would label sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and street harassment.
Thanks for standing up against this horrible exhibit. Thanks for taking it seriously. And thanks for standing next to survivors, families, communities and those who died due to domestic violence.
STREET HARASSMENT MAP
Check out our interactive Google Map of reported incidents of street harassment. To learn more about the incidents marked on the map, click on the pin icons below.
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