Board, Staff, and Supporters Sing Their CASSes Off

There were superheroes, men in kilts, and women in banana suits. The entire cast of Wizard of Oz paid homage to Sara Bareilles. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs even made an appearance.


Sing Your CASS Off 1

On Oct. 22, more than 150 people turned out to see their friends, family, and coworkers compete for costumed karaoke glory during Sing Your CASS Off at iStrategylabs in Shaw. The event, sponsored by social, team-based karaoke league District Karaoke, invited karaoke veterans and newbies alike to sing for a panel of judges, including District Karaoke founder Jesse Rauch, local musician Maryjo Mattea, and Miss DC 2015 Haely Jardas.

Performers from Congressional Chorus faced off against staffers and board members of CASS itself, while DC Bocce went head-to-head with DC Brau. Representatives from the Washington Nationals took on CASS’ friends at Zipcar, and staff of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Co. battled a fierce fivesome from the Women’s Information Network.

In true District Karaoke style, performers were asked to play to themes, including Ladies of the ’80s, Songs of Empowerment, and Oh! The Places You’ll Go – songs about transportation and public spaces. Needless to say, there was much Kelly Clarkson, Pink, and Whitney Houston throughout the night, as well as a healthy dose of anti-street-harassment-themed costumes and choreography.  

Though DC Bocce took home the top prize of gift certificates to Oliva’s Diner in Farragut North, everyone won in the end, as the karaoke contest raised $2,732.22 for CASS programs like RightRidesDC, our safe rides home program for women and LGBTQ-identifying individuals in the DC area.

For more photos of the night, make sure to check out photo albums from Round 1, Round 2, and Round 3. Special thanks to Bryan Arminio and Mediavolution for photo coverage!

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It “Makes Me Absolutely Hate Living in DC”: Catcalling Group in Petworth

Location: Georgia Avenue/Petworth, Washington, DC
Time:  Night (7:30pm-12am)

There is a group of men who constantly hang out on the block of 9th St and Upshur Street NW, near the post office. Nearly every single time I walk near that block or one block over on Georgia Avenue, I am catcalled. I live on 9th street, and that area is nearly impossible to avoid, as it is on the way to the Metro.

This seriously has happened to me nearly EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. since I moved to Petworth a year ago. It is the worst in the summer, and in the middle of the day, when not as many people are about, but it happens all the time, morning, midday, rush hour, etc.

I have confronted many of the men about their behavior and asked them not to talk to women on the street like that, which they just seem to either 1) find amusing or 2) get defensive about the “compliment” they’ve given me or 3) call me a bitch.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with, giving me extremely aggressive feelings, and makes me ABSOLUTELY HATE living in DC.

Submitted 8/25/15 by “CL”

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).

Street Harassed and Followed in Logan Circle

Location: P Street NW and 14th (Logan Circle)
Time: Morning Rush Hour (5am-9:30am)

In this instance, a panhandler who had called out to me before decided to follow me from his spot in front of the hardware store to my office (from P and 14th NW to Rhode Island and 14th NW), staying behind/beside me while asking for personal details like my name and occupation, and repeating things like, “I always thought you were beautiful, I know you’re the woman for me. I just want to talk to you. Don’t be afraid, I’d never hurt you!”

I’m very concerned about him following me in the future, and if he does, I would feel compelled to change my route to work.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 6/5/13 by “LP.”

stalking is c rime

 


Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit 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. Recommended tip: 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).

The Horrors of Street Harassment

How one day when I was 17 led me to stop being silent and start speaking out against street harassment.

By Lauren McEwen

I was 17, and I’d spent the perfect day with my then-boyfriend for his birthday. After a while, it was time for him to go meet his family for birthday dinner. He didn’t drive, and would usually go out of his way to make sure my parents could pick me up from the nearest train station, rather than leave me to take the bus and then walk home alone. But that day, my parents weren’t answering the phone—I later found out the ringer had accidentally been switched off—and I had no one else to call. I’d have to go it alone.

As soon as I got off of the bus, it began. A group of grey-haired men hanging out on the block began leering and greeting me suggestively. It was creepy, but sadly, nothing I wasn’t used to. I was brushed it off, walking as fast as my legs would allow.

I’ve been dealing with street harassment since I was eight, when my cousin and I were finally deemed old enough to walk from our grandparents’ house to the closest gas station by ourselves. We were so excited – finally grown enough to venture out into the world in search of our own candy. It felt so good to be trusted to be out alone. But then, something weird happened. Men in cars would pass by, honking their horns and rolling down their windows, whistling and offering us rides.

I don’t remember if my cousin and I ever discussed how we felt about it. But I do remember yelling back at our harassers, telling them that they were too old to talk to us if they were old enough to drive. They would tilt back their heads and laugh, saying we’d be even prettier when we got older.


I’ve had a bottle thrown at me for telling a guy I wasn’t interested in him. I have had men old enough to be my grandfather sit too close to me on the train, attempting to rub their thighs against mine. I have been followed for blocks down deserted streets. I have been groped by complete strangers, only to have them laugh in my face when confronted.


I hadn’t even hit puberty yet, and I felt like a whore. I was a child, and I didn’t know anything about patriarchy or gender politics or Gloria Steinem. All I knew was that these grown men were paying attention to me, even when I tried to keep my head down and ignore them. I started to think it was something I did or wore – that my Limited Too shorts were too revealing, or that I switched my hips when I walked.

i can be changed by what happens to me. i refuse to be reduced by it - maya angelou, street harassment, sexual harassment
“That was the day that downcast eyes and a murmured “hello” stopped being my go-to to avoid harassment.”

That day in 2007, as I walked without the safety net of a boyfriend or a parent or even a friend, it felt like every man that drove past honked his horn at me. I began to feel afraid. There were quite a few deserted, tree-lined streets on this walk, and I was terrified of what those faceless men could possibly do. Just the honking had put me on edge, and I had no idea that it was about to get much worse.

As I was waiting to cross the street, a black SUV pulled up beside me with two men in the front. They leered at me, their windows rolled down. I tried to ignore them, but it was difficult. Then, one of them turned to the other and raunchily speculated about what I’d be like in bed, describing my body in words that still make me cringe.

I realized that I’d been wrong in thinking that this type of behavior was somehow my fault. Nothing I did made a bit of difference. These men who ogled and shouted obscene things and grabbed at me as I walked down the street didn’t care what I wore, how I walked, or who I was. Just being a girl was all that mattered.

Standing near the car, hearing a complete stranger talk about me in a way no one had before, I was furious and hurt and disgusted. I wanted to reach inside the car and beat him bloody. I wanted to hurt him so badly that I thought I would explode; the knowledge that my weak punch would probably not even hurt him made me even more livid.

I looked him in the eyes, so angry that I began to cry. He quickly looked away, maybe embarrassed that I’d actually heard him. Maybe he realized that he was lusting after a child. Whatever it was, I took off running as soon as the light changed. Once they were out of sight, I slowed down, thinking it was finally over. But I was wrong. A white sedan slowed down and the driver began shouting things from his car – that I was beautiful, that I should give him my number, that I should get in the car.

I shook my head furiously, hoping that would be enough to get him to drive off and leave me in peace. It wasn’t. He parked his car in the middle of the street, and got out. I yelled out, telling him to leave me alone, terrified that he was going to drag me in. There had been a serial rapist in the area months earlier, and I didn’t remember if he’d been caught yet. I couldn’t move at first. I felt my knees shaking, and was afraid I wouldn’t be fast enough if I ran, like one of those dreams where you’re running for your life, but still feel like you’re moving in slow motion.

He came closer, pleading with me, promising that he never did anything like this. Saying that I was too beautiful for him to resist. He got within five feet, and finally, my legs woke up. I took off running and didn’t stop until I reached home. He shouted out after me, calling me every slur he could think of. I ran until my chest felt like it would burst.

When I finally got home, my mother saw me and screamed. My face was red and I couldn’t stop crying and shaking. She was afraid someone had physically harmed me. They hadn’t—but something in me had broken. These men had regarded my body like an inanimate possession – to leer at, to comment on, to shove into their cars and drive away with.

And I hadn’t done anything but cry and run. I felt like a coward.

My parent’s reactions weren’t very helpful. They were both terrified when they saw my face, but as soon as I explained the situation further, my father quietly excused himself from the conversation. I guess he assumed it was a “woman’s talk” that I should have with my mother, which is strange, because my father, who has three sisters and helped raise four girls, is the first male feminist I ever met.  Maybe he didn’t just know what to say, because he’s usually too ready to give his opinion, or to listen while I explain mine. But instead, my (usually awesome) mother gave hers, and for the first time, I was genuinely disappointed by what she had to say.

 I’m determined to let them know how I feel, and I refuse to let them take my pride.
“I’m determined to let them know how I feel, and I refuse to let them take my pride.”

She waved off my experience, telling me that men were attracted to young women, and that’s just the way it was. She then told me that when she was younger, she had been flattered by men “flirting” with her—but that was in the 1960s, when sexual harassment didn’t even have a name. From what she’s told me, the things those men said to her in passing were milder, slightly more complimentary. They didn’t use graphic detail while describing what they’d like to do with her if they got her alone. They didn’t chase her for blocks, shouting obscenities at her for refusing to give them her number.Maybe it was my fault that my parents didn’t understand. I was too embarrassed to tell them exactly what my harassers had said. Instead, I walked to my room and cried into my cat-shaped pillow. That was the day that downcast eyes and a murmured “hello” stopped being my go-to to avoid harassment. It didn’t always work and I was furious with myself for allowing strangers to make me feel that vulnerable and weak.

I began alternating between calmly explaining my discomfort to harassers and yelling at them in the middle of the sidewalk. The former is obviously the safer route to take, but sometimes, when something especially foul has been said or when I just really want to be left alone, I can’t stop myself before the words tumble out.

I’ve had a bottle thrown at me for telling a guy I wasn’t interested in him. I have had men old enough to be my grandfather sit too close to me on the train, attempting to rub their thighs against mine. I have been followed for blocks down deserted streets. I have been groped by complete strangers, only to have them laugh in my face when confronted.

My stories aren’t even the worst. I’ve read reports about girls who were shot in the head for refusing to give a man their number. Women who have had strange men expose themselves to them on the train, in bars and at gas stations. Women who have had harassers follow them to their doorsteps. Who have called the police, only to be told, “Oh, that’s just what men do.”

I began following the anti-street harassment movement, reading blog posts and retweeting stories and sharing my own. I learned that it wasn’t about sex or attraction, but power. Harassers felt entitled to my attention, body and time, either becoming confused when I rejected their advances (if you can call them that) or furious because I wasn’t “flattered” by the attention.

So now, I explain, I curse, I yell and I scream. Sometimes, my harassers stop and listen. They apologize, not having realized that they’d made me feel uncomfortable. Others get angry, violent even, but half the time, I don’t even care about my safety. I’m determined to let them know how I feel, and I refuse to let them take my pride.

This piece was originally published by The Apposite.

Lauren McEwen is a recent graduate of Howard University and lives in Washington, D.C. She’s horrible at writing these mini-bios, but she does love Ruby Woo, Harry Potter and equality. Oh, and Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta, because you can’t be intellectual all the time. Follow her on Twitter at @AngryWriterGirl.


MORE FROM “My Streets, Too”:

ABOUT “MY STREETS, TOO”
“My Streets, Too” is CASS’s ongoing series on personal writings on street harassment by members of the DC community. Email Renee to submit writings using your full name, initials, or anonymously (just let us know). Please be sure to use the subject line “My Streets, Too.”

Cleveland Park Resident Takes A Stand Against Street Harassment!

Last week, Lucia, a Chevy Chase resident, wrote a message to the Chevy Chase listerv about experiencing street harassment from a construction worker working on her street. She confronted the harasser during the first incident, but the harassment happened a second time when she later walked down her street with the 3-year-old child she nannies.

“I can understand how some might feel that repeated harassment could have been avoided, simply by walking down another block,” she wrote. “But I live here, and I am not in the wrong. I should not have to avoid walking down my own street for fear of harassment.”

Lucia shared contact information for the architect with the listserv, noting that “if others have had a similar experience, please do let this construction company know. I refuse to put up with it day after day until their project is done.” Her call to action spurred a torrent of supportive emails and calls to the construction company by her neighbors. The company soon got in touch with Lucia and let her know that they would address this problem with her harasser, even offering to facilitate a conversation between them.

We’re so pleased to see a community take *collective action* to support a survivor of harassment! BIG CASS props to Lucia for showing us the power of raising your voice and engaging your neighbors. We’re continually encouraged by evidence that companies are listening to concerns and taking public sexual harassment seriously — including, relatedly, trivializing stereotypes of construction workers as harassers.

As our friend Holly of Stop Street Harassment points out, there’s still much work to be done, and Lucia’s story shows us how speaking out and challenging the normalization of street harassment is within our power. We welcome you to speak out and share your own stories with us any time, anonymously or not.

With Lucia’s permission, the story is reconstructed below through email exchanges between CASS and Lucia and the Chevy Chase neighborhood listerv.


To: ChevyChaseCommunityListserv@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Thursday, May 16, 2013 9:19 AM
Subject: [ChevyChase] Harassment – Livingston St. construction site

Yesterday, in the early afternoon as I walked on Livingston towards the Starbucks on Connecticut, I passed an on-going residential construction site.

Several workers were on-site near the porch area of the home. One of them decided to start harassing me via cat-calls. The others laughed. He was doing so quite loudly, in Spanish. I speak Spanish fluently. I sped up the sidewalk, but it continued. I turned around and said “Excuse me?” in Spanish and left. More laughter.

30 min later, I walked back down Livingston heading home. This time I had my 3yr old charge with me.

Same exact harassment. I was so disgusted and angered by the lack of respect, especially in front of a child, that I decided to take action. I informed them that their comments were not appropriate, appreciated or professional. I snapped a picture of them with my cell phone and let them know that the construction company they worked for would be hearing from me. I don’t think they would approve of their employees harassing women on a job site.

On a side note; I noticed that other women (Caucasian) were not harassed, even just a few yards away from me. Perhaps the thought process was that I, a young Hispanic female, would be an easy target.

I can understand how some might feel that repeated harassment could have been avoided, simply by walking down another block. But I live here, and I am not in the wrong. I should not have to avoid walking down my own street for fear of harassment.

If others have had a similar experience, please do let this construction company know. I refuse to put up with it day after day until their project is done.


Follow-up Email from Lucia to the Cleveland Park Listserv:

The first person to contact me was of course the architect, who had the misfortune of posting the one piece of use-able contact information on the construction site. He was shocked and gave me the contractor’s name. He also offered to phone the home owner and make her aware. Unfortunately, as the day  progressed, he started to receive concerning phone calls and emails with negative remarks on his business associations. Clearly, he had no say on who was hired for the job.

 

The home owner was appalled. She called her contractor who in turn assured us that he would speak with the person involved directly. I did speak with the contractor. He explained to me that he had sub-contracted a roofer who had been on this particular job site for the first time yesterday. He had asked for several references before hiring him and was  surprised to hear that said roofer had harassed me. However, he set up a meeting with him, tomorrow, to sort it all out and has asked if I’d be interested in attending to identify the perpetrator directly. I’m still debating that. In any case, this person will not be invited back to the job site.

I cannot say enough about how the homeowner, architect and contractor have decided to react. I feel confident that this will soon be resolved. I do feel badly that this might reflect negatively on their businesses, and ask that we focus the actual perpetrator and the fact that we final say on what becomes the norm in our neighborhood. I am posting this under a new Topic thread in hopes that listserve members realize that the incident was indeed handled very well by the homeowner, architect and contractor.


Email to Lucia From the Contractor:

“I wanted to let you know that I spoke individually with my four regular workers who were at the job site this week. Each had a blank, deer-in-the-headlights look when I inquired about the incident. Two were aware that someone had taken a picture of the project, but did not seem to know why.

In contrast, the roofer who fit the physical description you gave and who was a first-time subcontractor reacted as if he had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He did not acknowledge making inappropriate comments, but his facial reaction and the change in body language indicated that he was not comfortable with the discussion. He did state that he looked at a pretty lady walking down the street in the afternoon and that latinos talk a lot when working…maybe she misunderstood. His jaw dropped when I informed him that you speak fluent Spanish.

I realized that in my earlier conversations with the homeowner and you that we had not discussed the time of day when the event occurred. I called the homeowner and confirmed that you had reported it was in the afternoon. With his reference to an afternoon event I am confident that we have identified the source of the problem. I assure you that he will not perform any additional work for our company.

Most of my workers have been with me for many years. Our clients allow us into their homes where we have access to all their possessions. We recognize and value the trust they place in us. I routinely receive compliments from our clients about the care and concern our workers display when working on projects. This incident was in sharp contrast to our business practices, and I extend my sincere apologies.

With best regards,
[REDACTED]

Case closed. Thanks again for the supportive comments,

Lucia
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