CASS Takes Back The Streets! Sidewalk chalking in Dupont Circle

On Sunday, Collective Action for Safe Spaces took to the streets — or at least the Circle — to help kick off the Second Annual Meet Us On The Street: International Anti-Street Harassment Week (April 7-13). Joined by Stop Street Harassment, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture (which rallied lots of participation for its new photo project on consent), the DC Rape Crisis Center and fellow community activists, CASS led a sidewalk chalking event to spread anti-street harassment messages across DC’s Dupont Circle!

Colorful chalk with phrases like “My name is not ‘Hey Baby,’” “Street harassment is not a compliment,” “My body is NOT public space,” and “I deserve safe streets” can be found all over the Dupont Circle area.  From passerbys to those enjoying the beautiful day, we received TONS of positive feedback and engaged in great conversations about preventing street harassment.

>>Tweet us your photos if you come across our chalkings (or our other street art, for that matter)! @safespacesDC

TAKE BACK THE STREETS: Join us this Sunday (4/7) for Sidewalk Chalking for International Anti-Street Harassment Week!

CASS Sidewalk Chalking for International Anti-Street Harassment Week!

“Don’t tell us what to wear, tell men not to rape!”
“I deserve to feel safe walking down the street!”
“‘Hey Baby’ is NOT a compliment!”

Agree with these messages? Then join us to TAKE BACK THE STREETS with us
this Sunday at 2pm in Dupont!

CASS is proud to host the kickoff event (!) for the Second Annual Meet Us On The Street: International Anti-Street Harassment Week (April 7-13)We’ll meet at the fountain in Dupont Circle at 2:00pm to check-in, distribute supplies, and put you in teams. With chalk in hand, the sky’s the limit. Get creative, get chalky, and get the message out that we deserve to feel safe on our streets!

>> RSVP on Facebook!

And if you want to get pumped up beforehand, sign up for this kickass, free self defense workshop (also part of International Anti-Street Harassment Week!) on responding to sexual harassment in public spaces, hosted by Lauren Taylor of Defend Yourself.

Sexually harassed in Dupont — and sick of it!

Location:  Dupont Circle and Dupont Circle Metro Station
Time: Evening Rush Hour (3:30pm-7:30pm)

Although the story I’m about to share is one of the more extreme stories that has happened to me in Dupont, the overall point of me finally posting publically (sic) about this is that I get harassed almost every day that I come to work. I work in Dupont Circle, and like many people, I love to sit by the fountain and eat my lunch. However, when I do, I know full well I am either going to get comments about my body, aggressively asked out, have inappropriate questions asked of me, or touched. I’m so incredibly sick of it. I hate feeling anxiety every time a male walks close to me because I’m waiting for the comment. I often feel that because I am a larger, more curvy woman, that I am even more the target of men who think that I will be an easy date or that I must never get complimented, so I must be especially happy to hear one from a stranger. Not in a million years.

Yesterday after work I was walking to the Dupont metro  during rush hour [and] it happened yet again. I was wearing work clothes that included loose dress pants, but a fitted, tighter jacket with a fashion belt (although no matter what I was wearing what happened wasn’t ok) so I looked nice and professional and fashionable. A man comes up behind me and yells the usual comment at me about how nice and voluptuous and curvy I am. I usually just respond by walking away or rolling my eyes. The only time I usually yell or respond is when someone physically touches me or gets too close to me. However, I had a long day and spun around and replied to him in an equally loud voice for him to F off. Which makes him respond by screaming at me that there is something wrong with me that there is something wrong with me that I didn’t appreciate his compliment. The rest of the screaming involved phrases from me like, “no woman wants to hear that” and “you are an Fing street harasser”. Which all ended with him screaming obscenities and insults at me. Keep in mind, this is in the middle of a PACKED street of pedestrians coming from work to get on the metro as well. Awesome.

I am sick and tired of not even being able to go to work without some man (some obviously homeless, some wearing fancy suits) thinking they are doing me a favor by “complimenting” lewdly and loudly how nice my hips/butt/figure is. My anger is that even when I tried to stand up for myself and call him out, I got even more negative attention by him screaming insults at me which makes even more people stare at me as if I’m some crazy lady who just enjoys getting in screaming fights with random men. It felt like if I had just let it go then I would have avoided even more embarrassment and anger. But at least with me calling him out, he walked away equally as upset as I was rather then feeling like he was a nice great guy paying me a favor with a compliment. I’m so frustrated, I just want to be left alone!

Submitted on 12/11/12 by “Elizabeth Bretz”

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:
Please consider reporting to Metro Transit Police: www.wmata.com/harassment; 202-962-2121.

“I am still angry about having to make the choice between sunshine and safety.”

Location: Grassy park; Dupont Circle
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

I lived in DC from ’90-’91. On a gorgeous day, which happened to coincide with my day off, I went to Dupont Circle to sit and enjoy the sunshine. After two hours of verbally chasing away and physically moving away from would-be suitors, I gave up. I went down the street to the ice-cream place, explained the situation, and asked if I could just sit there and read. The woman behind the counter had a sympathetic look on her face when she said, ‘Sure’. I bought ice-cream, even though I didn’t want or need it, in thanks (sic). Sadly, very few people who hear that story think, “How horrible, that you had to leave a public park because you felt physically threatened”. They see me as weak because I “should have stayed and just told them no”. Well, I did — but, after a quarter of my day off in the sun, I decided that my time and my physical safety were more important. Twenty-plus years later, however, I am still angry about having to make the choice between sunshine and safety.

Submitted on 7/20/12 by “Heather”

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:
Please consider reporting to Metro Transit Police: www.wmata.com/harassment; 202-962-2121.

“Within 5 feet: Battling sexual assault up close”

Friday, 7/20/2012
Alicia Lozano, wtop.com

This piece was originally published by WTOP. It has been republished by CASS with permission from the author

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •

The 25-year-old photographer was walking in Dupont Circle on a bright, sunny Thursday afternoon when a man pulled up behind her on his bicycle. He reached up her skirt and through her underwear.

“He laughed and biked away,” she says. “That was it.”

Gorman was stunned, but not into silence. She chased the man, and called police when she couldn’t catch up. The next day, Gorman decided to take further action and wrote an essay for Collective Action for Safe Spaces about what she calls the “10-5 rule.”

“I am walking alone and see a man walking towards me at 10 feet. Maybe instead of looking straight ahead into the distance, I move my eyes to the ground. I slump my shoulders slightly … At 5 feet, I take a small breath and one of two things happens: nothing at all, which I consider a small victory or…something.”

The essay instantly went viral. The Washington Post, Huffington Post and DCist are just a few places that picked it up.

Women from throughout the region wrote in to express their support and also to share their own stories. It wasn’t long before Gorman realized she had tapped into something that was boiling just beneath the surface. She wasn’t alone.

“This is not just about me,” she says. “This is about the issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

Lisa, a D.C. resident who asked WTOP to withhold her last name for safety reasons, is one of the many people inspired by Gorman’s account. She felt an instant connection to the story not only because she has been a victim of harassment, but because Gorman’s incident happened in her neighborhood.

“You forget that this is something that’s not supposed to happen,” she says. “There’s no reason that people should feel ashamed. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were just going about your life.”

More than a year ago, Lisa stepped out of a friend’s house near 3rd Street and Florida Avenue in Northwest to wave down a cab. A van full of men pulled up near her and started “leering and taunting.”

“Hey sweetie, we can take you where you want to go. Just get in,” they said.

She was scared and didn’t know what to do. In hopes of not angering or provoking them, she pretended she was “in on the joke” so they wouldn’t get out of the van. Eventually they left, but the experience haunted her.

“It was only a couple of minutes, but you think a lot about how wrong that could have gone,” she says. “It’s threatening, and a lot of people don’t always realize that it’s not flattering, it’s not nice. It’s unwanted and it’s inappropriate and it’s unkind.”

Gorman’s post and the subsequent wave of support made Lisa “proud seeing that so many women feel that they’re in control of their lives and that this is not something they want to take.”

Chai Shenoy, co-founder and executive director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, is seeing a new wave of victims coming forward. Where some women used to accept harassment as a part of daily life, many are no longer keeping quiet.

Since 2009, Safe Spaces has received more than 700 posts from women who were harassed or assaulted.

“The idea that sexual harassment and assault is a private thing comes from centuries of women and men not talking about these issues,” she says. “It’s a very new phenomenon through social media and through the Internet for people to be sharing these experiences.”

What made Gorman’s account so unique is her willingness to not only post her name, but also link to her professional bio. By not hiding her identity, she made others feel empowered to do the same, Shenoy says.

Chai Shenoy, co-founder of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS)

“I think the online space is a real tool for empowerment for a lot of people,” she says. “There is a sense of wanting to reclaim the Internet for different genders. This is just another avenue of people wanting to reclaim what happened to them.”Earlier this month, a 20-year-old Minnesota woman posted a picture of herself smiling and flashing a bandaged hand that was injured after she punched a man who threatened to rape another woman.

“I hope your mother/girlfriend/sister/friends/everyone asks what happened to your nose,” she wrote in a blog post. “I bet you didn’t think that the girl who was walking in front of you would turn around and punch you in the face.”

The original post has since been taken down due to threats to the author, who turned herself in to police.

Jeenie Yoon, a volunteer for the D.C. Rape and Crisis Center, says that women typically respond to harassment in one of two ways: ignoring or “going crazy on the harasser.”

“Neither of them are all that effective,” she says.

While commuting to work one early morning, Yoon fell asleep on the Metro and woke up to a man sitting right next to her, though the train car was mostly empty. She tried to ignore him, but he kept inching closer and closer until his leg was touching hers. She felt trapped.

“You need to move to a different seat right now,” she said loudly enough for the four other commuters to hear.

The man swore and cursed, called her a racist and didn’t budge at first. Yoon stood her ground and kept repeating her demand until he left.

“It was frightening and adrenaline was rushing through my body,” she says. “My heart was beating fast and I had a little sweat going, but it worked.”

These types of stories are nothing new to the millions of women who endure catcalls, or worse, while walking down the street. But the new wave of victims coming forward signals that a bigger conversation is looming, Shenoy says.

The online community has proven to be a source of support for some, and courage for others.

But for Gorman, she was just trying to recover from the shock.

“I was really angry,” she says. “I didn’t think I would get this kind of response – I wasn’t going out there trying to get on the evening news – this was just my way of dealing with it.”

Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)