Women & Bicycles Add Tools To Their Anti-Harassment Toolbox

Last month, a group of women-identifying cyclists from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) gathered in the basement of the Petworth public library to attend CASS’s street harassment workshop.

While cycling can be fun and empowering, it can also be frustrating and even down right scary.

CASS’s workshop introduced prevention and empowerment strategies that could be used by people who experience sexual harassment in public, both on and off bicycles.

WABA Training 3

Here are 4 verbal methods you can use to engage the perpetrator:

  1. Look at the person and say “Hello”. Give them a respectful “hello” or “how are you?”This method is great for three reasons. First, It’s proactive. Second, it firmly establishes you as an agent in the space, instead of an object moving through it. Third, it opens up the possibility that there could be a community here that includes everyone. Instead of wresting power away from each other in this back and forth struggle, it opens up the possibility that we could share it, or even build it together.
  1. Be assertive and make a direct command. “Leave me alone!” “I’m not interested.” “Don’t talk to me that way.” Be sure to breathe and act calm and confident even if you don’t feel that way. When you deliver these responses, you want to do so with a strong voice, strong body language, and eye contact if you feel comfortable doing so. No “please” or “um”.
  2. Name the behavior – LOUDLY—so that everyone can hear you. “You’ve been following me for six blocks! Stop following me!” This response is good because it holds the harasser responsible for their behavior and it demands that the behavior stop.
  3. Add body language to your verbal response. Put up a “stop sign”. Put your hand in front of your chest, palm out, arm extended and look at the harasser and say “stop right there.”

We acknowledge that when you’re on a bike, harassment can happen very quickly. Either you’re zooming by the harasser or they are zooming by you. This can make it hard to respond. However, the more you practice these responses, the more quickly you’ll be able to deploy them when the time comes.

And most importantly, in all cases, you should choose the response that makes you feel the most safe and in control.

For more information on CASS’s Trainings and Workshops visit our website or contact us at workshops@collectiveactiondc.org.

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Spreading the Word on Our Bystander Intervention Work to Prevent Sexual Assault!

Just two weeks ago, CASS’s Zosia and I teamed up with Lauren Taylor of Defend Yourself and presented CASS/Defend Yourself’s collaborative Safe Bars program to a packed room at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Los Angeles! We co-presented with Carol Hensell of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Myra Ferell-Womochil of Victim Witness Services of Coconino County, who helped bring innovative sexual assault prevention training to alcohol-serving establishments in Arizona through the Arizona Safer Bars Alliance (ASBA). Together, we discussed and compared CASS’s grassroots approach to violence prevention through our Safe Bars program (which was in part inspired by Arizona’s work) and ADHS’s community and state-government led efforts in Arizona.

The packed room while we presented at NSAC!

Both Safe Bars and ASBA are rooted in bystander intervention, which is a key approach to preventing sexual violence. In presenting at NSAC, Zosia explained how bystander intervention trainers should envision themselves as community organizers, particularly ones who are charged with helping build the skills of leaders. Zosia emphasized the importance of tailoring bystander intervention approaches to each specific community. Trainers should also be sure to honor the knowledge that trainees already have on the issue and help build their sense of accountability to others. In regard to preventing sexual harassment and assault in bars, the most crucial aspect of bystander intervention training is often subverting the myths regarding alcohol use and sexual assault.

Julia shared with the NSAC audience the basic elements of bystander intervention. She also discussed CASS’s work with DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), for which we provided testimony on the need for sexual assault prevention training in bars and clubs, developed and delivered by subject matter experts. After the session was over, we were excited to be approached by individuals from across the country who have been working on similar prevention efforts in their states and communities. There was great energy from the group about CASS’s work in DC and helping similar efforts by sharing our successes and challenges.

Collective Action for Safe Spaces at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference
Our NSAC team! Lauren Taylor, Zosia Sztykowski, Julia Strange, Carol Hensell and Myra Ferell-Womochi (l-r)

We learned so much at NSAC! We loved the opportunity to present alongside so many wonderful friends and allies doing critical work in violence prevention, including FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, who shared their amazing “Pink Loves Consent” work; Chai Jindasurat of the Anti-Violence Project, who spoke on violence prevention efforts in LGBTQ communities; Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment, who presented on dismantling rape culture; and Sangeetha Ravichandran of A Long Walk Home, who shared her incredible work using the arts to empower youth to heal from sexual violence.

We hope to see you all next year at the 2014 National Sexual Assault Conference in Pittsburgh!

Making Moves With Our New Safe Bars Program!

With the help of the DC Nightlife Association, we held our first-ever training on Safe Bars, our new sexual assault prevention program, in July. Today, we spoke about Safe Bars to a group of DC bar and nightlife staff at a Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID) meeting. In addition to local bar and nightclub staff, we were joined by a local ANC Commissioner, staff from the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) and Chief Burke of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), who underscored the importance of and need for DC bars to address issues of sexual harassment and assault.

Lauren Taylor of Defend Yourself, our Safe Bars program partner, conducting a Safe Bars workshop in July.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Do you work at a bar or club in DC? Maybe you know someone who does? Get in touch! We need your help to spread the word and make connections to help prevent sexual harassment & assault. Contact Zosia Sztykowski at zosia@collectiveactiondc.org for more info.

Stay tuned for updates and wish us luck in LA!

Take Action to Support Safe Bars & Nightclubs in DC!


Upcoming LGBTQ Self Defense Class

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Looking for  a self defense class? Want to feel safer and more confident as you navigate the public spaces of DC?  Looking for a class that focuses specifically on the risks and vulnerabilities that LGBTQ people face?  Take this upcoming self defense class with Defend Yourself.

From the Defend Yourself website:

What does the class cover?

  • Prevention and awareness: things you can do to prevent or avoid an attack or abuse.
  • Assertiveness and verbal self-defense: using words and body language to stop obnoxious or intrusive behavior and to keep a situation from escalating.
  • Physical self-defense: techniques to end an attack and get to safety.

We will focus on the risks and vulnerabilities that LGBTQ people face. We learn these skills and techniques through discussion, role-plays, exercises, drills and more. This is not a martial arts class. You won’t have to practice for months to learn practical skills. You will go home with techniques you can use immediately.

Who can take the class?
The class is designed for anyone (age 16 and up) who identifies as lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-questioning-queer-intersex or an ally!


Saturday, October 23, 1-4 pm. It’s at the Emergence Community Arts Collective (www.ecacollective.org) at 733 Euclid Street NW, north of the U street Metro Station and south of the Columbia Heights Metro on the Green Line. It’s across the street fromBanneker High School and Howard University. We’ll be on the second floor.


$39 until Oct. 8, $52 after. If you register with a friend/family member, you each get $5 off. There are limited reduced-fee slots for low-income people. Contact us if you can’t afford the full fee.

Find out how to register here.

Upcoming Self Defense Classes

posted in: Activists, CASS Event | 0

Defend Yourself is offering several self defense classes this spring and summer:

Intro to self defense
Sunday April 25th
1-4 pm
Takoma Park
Register by April 13th and pay only $39. It’s 52 after. Sign up with a friend and get $5 off each.
Register here.

Dealing with street (and other public) harassment (we’ll be co-presenting this workshop)
Saturday, May 22nd
1-4 pm

Facing weapons and more than one attacker
Saturday, June 5th
1-4 pm

Intro to self defense
Saturday, July 17th
1-4 pm

For more information about Defend Yourself check out their website.


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