“I felt humiliated, violated, and ashamed.”

Location: Lake Anna State Park, VA
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

I have hesitated to share this story, as only few people know to this day, and I still feel ashamed (although, I know I shouldn’t). However, I feel it’s better to alert people to what had happened and draw awareness to it, in order to prevent something similar from happening to someone else. We were camping at the lake, and I had gone into the water for the swim. The lake was crowded that day, as it was a holiday weekend. I went in by myself, and after floating around for a few minutes, I felt a man’s finger in my vagina through my swimsuit bottom underwater. I immediately thrashed and kicked to get him away, and was overcome with panic. I yelled for the lifeguard’s help, and scanned around me to figure out who it may have been. But, with the cover of water and the crowds that day, it was impossible to identify anyone. After a moment, the lifeguard had made her way to me. I explained to her what had happened through my tears. I felt humiliated, violated, and ashamed. She brought me to shore, and I told my story to a senior staff person, and then a police man who arrived shortly thereafter (the park staff and the police man handled the situation wonderfully, and thanks go out to them). The police man told me that this wasn’t the first time this had happened there. This became distressing to me that this guy most likely uses the cover of the crowds and water on a consistent basis to sexually harass women because he knows the chances of him getting caught are slim. Meanwhile, I feel shame whenever I think of what happened, and I am embarrassed to tell anyone what happened. I become panicked when I’m around crowds, fearing something similar could happen and always feel as if I have to be on guard to protect myself since this happened. However, I hope that my story, and others on this blog, can help bring more awareness to this problem, and possibly prevent future assaults. It can happen anywhere with any number of people around. The more people who report and talk about it, the more nervous it will hopefully make those who commit these crimes.

Submitted on 7/15/12 by Anonymous

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system:
Please consider reporting to Metro Transit Police; www.wmata.com/harassment, on Twitter at @WMATAharassment, or 202-962-2121.

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.

On The Reverse “10-5 Rule” and Walking While Female

Yesterday, DC resident Liz Gorman was sexually assaulted in broad daylight in what is considered a “safe” neighborhood in DC.  Here are her own words on her experience.

sexual harassment in dc

CASS was the first outlet to break the news and alert DC residents of Gorman’s assault (after Gorman contacted us), shown here reported on by DC’sWJLA/ABC 7.

Those of us who have worked in the service industry are very familiar of the 10-5 rule. This favorite of overzealous managers, inserted into every training session and employee handbook states that at 10 feet you make eye contact with a guest or customer, and at 5 feet you acknowledge them. Then a brief conversation ensues, the employee exchanges whatever good or service is being sold for money, and the encounter is over. Have a nice day.

While walking down a city street alone, a sort of reverse 10-5 rule exists. No matter the time of day or what you’re wearing. It goes like this: 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, so maybe my breasts aren’t as prominent. I begin to analyze the width of the sidewalk; am I too close to him? I can’t move too far away, as I might risk offending him. And if I’m too close, well, that may very well be an invitation for something. 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. Something like a kissing sound or a variety of sexually explicit comments. At which point I left with two options: pretend that I don’t hear a damn thing, or risk an additional conversation, which in the past has been anything from a choice silent hand gesture and specific curse words to an extended conversation on mutual respect and common courtesy. It’s usually the curse words, which I wouldn’t recommend for those who can’t take what they dish. And the encounter is over. Have a nice day.

While walking down a city street alone, a sort of reverse 10-5 rule exists. No matter the time of day or what you’re wearing.

And most of us have to deal with this on a daily basis. We change our routes. Maybe I’ll take a left down this street so I don’t have to walk past That Store or That Bus Stop or That House. Maybe I’ll just take a cab when walking wouldn’t take much longer. Maybe I should have worn something else. Maybe I’ll just stay in tonight. There are a lot of “maybes”.

But let’s forget about all of the choices, those maybes, that we know have nothing to do with harassment but we still think about anyway. I was in Dupont Circle at 3:30 pm yesterday and was sexually assaulted while walking. In my hometown, in a nice neighborhood, in broad daylight, in public. I’m a city girl; I walk fast and have rules. A man pulled up behind me on his bicycle and reached up my skirt. He put his finger into my vagina through my underwear. He laughed and biked away. That was it. No 10-5, no catcall. No exchange. I didn’t see his face. At least when I was robbed at gunpoint I knew who to look for on the street.

The cops came within minutes and were exceedingly supportive. I went on with my day: I had lunch with my mom and then drinks with some of my closest friends well into the evening. I received many messages of support and encouragement, and I’m really grateful to have such wonderful people in my life. But one thing that has bothered me is referring to what I did as “brave.” I was simply walking while female. I guess I didn’t realize what a battle it still is out there and how much work we still have to do.

Liz Gorman is a photographer from Washington, DC. Her story was republished and reported on in numerous local and national media outlets, including The Washington PostJezebel, the Washington Post Local (front page Metro section), WJLAWTTG FOXDCistDCblogs and the Washington City Paper.


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.”

“I COULD, TOO.”

Walking down 14th one evening to meet friends, I passed a group of men headed in the opposite direction. I could feel them looking at me before crossing paths, and had already braced myself for an inappropriate comment. You know how you can tell when the way someone is looking at you is inappropriate and threatening before he even opens his mouth?

Anyway, as expected, one of the men did turn out to be a verbal harasser, and said “girl, i wanna taste that little ______.”

What I didn’t expect, was that one of the other men would intentionally bump into me. The verbal harassment, coupled with this physical touch, was really unsettling. To make matters worse, I was audibly and visually disgusted by both the comment and the contact, and the man who originally verbally harassed me appeared to be offended and became even more threatening by shouting back at me, “I could, too!”
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