PoP Poster Asks, “What Can People Do To Stop Street Harassment?”

end street harassment in dc

Yesterday, DC blog Prince of Petworth (PoP) posted a story in which a reader recounted facing harassment from a group of men in Columbia Heights, asking the question: “What should you do when you’re being harassed?” Though it’s unclear from the original story whether the harassing incident described is gender-based, the behaviors — stalking, verbal threats — were quickly recognized by commenters as similar to the kind of street harassment that women and LGBTQ folks experience because of their gender expression all the time. The rest of the comments, however, ranged everywhere from decent advice to explicit racism.

So, we decided to weigh in. Here are a few things you can do when you’re harassed on the street:

1. Use an assertive response.

Make eye contact with your harasser, tell them their behavior isn’t acceptable and that you want them to stop — if you feel safe! Sometimes no response is the best response, as long as you choose it.

2. Engage a bystander.

In the story that the PoP reader shared, the individual who was being harassed ducked into a coffee shop as an escape. CASS is working hard at conducting community-wide trainings — both for businesses and individuals — to help folks recognize sexual aggression and safely intervene when possible. In the moment, explicitly calling out the harassing behavior and asking people for help can go a long way to de-escalate a situation and find support!

3. Write, draw, speak about it!

If you don’t feel comfortable responding in the moment, there are plenty of things you can do after the fact to channel your frustration and anger, as well as to help raise awareness and spur action. We think this kind of collective action is the key to ending gender-based street harassment once and for all!

4. Become an engaged community member and don’t criminalize youth of color.

When dialogues about violence prevention start, too often the knee-jerk responses reinforce false and damaging stereotypes: that victims should be responsible for their own safety by changing their behavior, and that people of color are inherently criminal. It’s important to recognize these ideologies as what they are: harmful cultural norms — especially for women and LGBTQ people of color, for whom these norms intersect and compound. Rather than reinforcing these stereotypes in moments of fear and frustration, examine how they motivate your own behavior, commit to calling them out, and listen when others do. Building a community in which all marginalized identities are valued and centered is critical to creating a culture in which gender-based violence is not tolerated. If you routinely cross the street when you see groups of black youth, as one PoP commenter suggested, try saying “hello” instead. Think critically about why people end up on the street to ask for money. Act responsibly — and thoughtfully — in your community to address the intersecting injustices that keep us all down. 

RECOMMENDED READING

“Memo to White Women: Don’t Be George Zimmerman,” Lauren Taylor and Sarah Trembath
“Sexism and racism are woven into a tight fabric that maintains the privilege of whiteness and of maleness.”

“White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh
“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” This is a short, accessible piece on white privilege and male privilege. The article is a ‘classic’ by anti-racist educators

“A Black Feminist Critique of Same-Race Street Harassment,” Hawley Fogg-Davis
This article focuses on the experiences of black lesbians and the need for black women to hold black men accountable for upholding black patriarchy.

“Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
Crenshaw considers the intersections of racism and patriarchy, and how the experiences of women of color remain unrepresented within the discourses of both feminism and anti-racism.

Street Harassed in NoMa: “The Next Thing I Knew, They Threw A Glass Bottle At My Feet.”

Street Harassed in NoMa: "The Next Thing I Knew, They Threw A Glass Bottle At My Feet."

Street Harassed in NoMa: “The Next Thing I Knew, They Threw A Glass Bottle At My Feet.”

Location: New York Avenue and 3rd St NW (Mt. Vernon/NoMa)
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

I was walking toward the Mount Vernon metro and walked past two males as they made comments about my body that I didn’t really try make out because I was so accustomed to them at that intersection by that point. I didn’t bother to even look in their direction, which must have enraged them because one yelled something my way as I crossed the intersection and the next thing I know a glass bottle shatters to the right of my feet. I didn’t want to give them any satisfaction so I kept walking as though nothing had occurred but I made sure to move far from that area later that month.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 4/8/14 by “SH.”

Take a stand against public sexual harassment and assault: Donate now.


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. 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).

“I Spoke Back to Street Harassment in Columbia Heights!”

street harassment in DC

“I Spoke Back to Street Harassment in Columbia Heights.”

Location: 14th & U Street NW (Columbia Heights)
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)

Two of my friends and I had stopped into a beer & wine store on 14th around 9:30pm Friday, 3/28/14. We are all 25 years old and were all dressed casually in jeans and sweatshirts. We exited the store with a 6-pack and began to walk east on 14th.

A very tall thin, well-dressed man in his late 20s paused, leered at us, and made a sexual remark. The street was bustling and it was hard to hear what he said. Something along the lines of, “You ladies want to drink that with me? Blah, blah, blah sexy.” We kept walking and he continues to walk the opposite direction. After about 5 paces, I turned and yelled as loud as I could, “Yo! FUCK YOU!” Some people turned to looks, and I turned back around and kept walking with my friends. Heard him yell a sarcastic “Ha!!” as we walked away.

Submitted 3/30/14 by “K.M.”

Take a stand against public sexual harassment and assault: Donate now.


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. 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).

Dear Bike Messengers Hanging Outside 17th & L Potbelly’s: Stop Harassing Women!

“Dear Bike Messengers Hanging Outside 17th & L Potbelly’s: Stop Harassing Women!”

Location: 17th and L st NW
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

There’s a group of bike messengers that have made the entrance to Potbellies (sic) and the Kita building their home. They stand there all day, hollering at women, asking them to smile, saying all sorts of terrible things. I’ve confronted them, saying “hey, you seem like nice guys. Could you please stop harassing women? We’re not objects and it’s really not ok.” They smiled and laughed it off, and were right back at it.

I’ve asked the building manager to do something, she’s gone to lecture but no success. It won’t stop. I just don’t know what else to do. Every day.

Submitted 3/7/14 by Anonymous.

UPDATE: With your help, we let @Potbelly and @GoldenTriDC know that street harassment is bad for both the community and for business. We heard from at east three other individuals that they had also experienced or witnessed street harassment at this area. Within less than an hour, Potbelly’s customer service arm, @PotbellyService, tweeted to let us know that they would contact Potbelly’s District Manager to look into the issue. We hope the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID) looks into the issue as well and — perhaps most importantly — that area bike messenger services take note and teach their employees about the personal and economic harms of street harassment. Thank you to all who joined us in spreading awareness about this problem.

Take a stand against public sexual harassment and assault: Donate now.


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. 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).