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.
Viva la revolution!
Intimate Partner Violence results in three (3) homicides in the United States every day. These lives are not simply snuffed out as acts of “passion,” but are the horrific results of sustained patterns of psychological, sexual, and physical abuse as a means of sustaining power and control in an intimate relationship. Over the past three decades, states, local communities, and the federal government have worked together to pass comprehensive legislation making intimate partner violence a crime, ensuring the safety of families and children.
The National Crime and Punishment Museum mocks the seriousness of intimate partner violence by romanticising such homicides as crimes of “passion.” The Valentine’s weekend exhibit “Crimes of Passion” makes light of a crime that affects thousands of Americans of all races, socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.
Collection Action for Safe Spaces is an organization that works to end public sexual harassment and assault so we are astutely aware of the often gendered aspects — and links between — intimate partner violence, public sexual harassment, and sexual assault. The foundation of all of these offenses is the appropriation of personal autonomy by one individual over the other. Whether it is intimate partner violence, public sexual harassment, or sexual assault, the underlying offense is the subjugation of one individual over another and a complete disregard for the victim’s personal agency and welfare.
We respectfully demand that the National Crime and Punishment Museum live up to their social responsibility to the community by ceasing to promote such an exhibit as an event, particularly for a holiday based on passion, romance, and love. No matter how you spice up this exhibit, intimate partner violence has a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities and should not be taken lightly.
Please sign the petition we created on Change.org demanding telling the National Crime and Punishment Museum that Intimate Partner Violence is NOT a crime of “Passion” and that it is time they take IPV seriously!