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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posted in: CASS Updates | 0

zosia - collective action for safe spaces dc
Our little family is growing! I’m so happy to introduce you to eight new volunteer staffers that we’ve brought on to bring you the best communications, exciting policy advocacy, and important workshops that are empowering our community to end public sexual harassment and sexual assault. Get to know the new staff!

It’s tough for me to say goodbye during such an exciting time, but nevertheless: after four years of service, during which I became CASS’s first and only full-time employee, I’m stepping down from my role as Executive Director. Looking back on the past four years, I’m overcome by how much we’ve achieved — the launch of RightRides DC, the expansion of our workshops program, the transition from all-volunteer staffing to paid leadership — thanks to you. I’ll be leaving the organization poised to leverage our growing resources and connections to dream even bigger and reach new levels of impact and sustainability.

Every day, we get closer to our vision of a harassment-free city, and it’s because of the dedication of dozens of volunteers and the contributions of people like you that we can. I’m so excited to share a bit more with you about the work you’ve made possible this spring and summer, and I can’t wait to see what you do together in the future.

Stay tuned this week for an exciting update on CASS’s new leadership, and subscribe to our email list to catch all our latest news!

“I don’t appreciate that.”

While waiting for the X2 bus a couple of nights ago, an older gentleman saw me approach and said, “woooo, your parents did a GOOD job with you!”, while looking at me up and down. I smiled politely and said, “I actually don’t like comments like that”. He was immediately apologetic, and I nodded and turned away, looking for when the bus was coming. After an awkward silence, he pulled out a picture of his family and said, “You know, I meant no disrespect. I am married, I have daughters, and I was brought up to respect women and give them compliments.” I was tired, I had had a long day, and simply had only enough energy to say, “I appreciate your apology,” before turning away again. He didn’t say a word to me again.

I felt like this situation was dealt with better than I have treated other moments of street harassment (I got myself in trouble for flicking off a leering, creepy man on the street). But I wish I had taken the opportunity to tell him how his comment had made me feel (objectified, shallow, violated, not the way this man would allegedly want his daughters to feel). But I felt slightly satisfied for shaming him somewhat. Hopefully he’ll think twice before ‘giving compliments’ to strangers again.

Submitted by anonymous on 3/26/2010

Location: H and 7th NW

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.


The Apology

posted in: Georgetown | 1

Cross posted from Stop Street Harassment:

I walk from the bus stop to get to my job this morning, and a homeless man was sitting outside of Starbucks on M near Wisconsin. He shakes his cup at people walking by, but with me it’s “Hey, gorgeous” and “Hey, mami.”

I walk up to him and tell him that he shouldn’t call women he doesn’t know “gorgeous” and “mami” and that he needs to refer to them as “miss” or “ma’am.” He immediately apologized, said he meant “no disrespect,” and told me to have a nice day. I wished him a nice day as well.

I rarely get apologies from harassers. Usually when they get called out on their behavior they get irate, start throwing insults and get violent. But this guy was genuinely apologetic and I appreciated that.

I wish more harassers would follow his lead.

Submitted by anonymous on 3/18/2010

Location: Georgetown

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.


“A fine-looking lady.”

This isn’t something that happened to me, just something I witnessed, but I thought it was the best way I’d ever seen to deal with a harasser when one is at a customer-service-type job. I was waiting to get a permit approved for a sign (lengthy process.) The DC permit center is full of people, mostly small business owners, contractors, and home-owners who are looking to get construction/renovation/Certificate of Occupancy permits.

There is a long curved counter with little stations for each department (Historical, Structural, etc) with a DC city employee at each to look over permit applications that relate to their specific areas. A man was sitting at the structural engineer’s station, when the engineer had to get up to get some form or other. The man had been staring at the woman sitting at the next cubicle, the Historical station, from around the partition.

When the engineer left, the man wheeled his chair back so he could see her better, and started saying things to her in a strange monotone. At first I thought they must know each other, since he didn’t introduce himself and was saying things like, “Oh, what a fine-looking lady, you look really nice today…” She ignored him and moved her computer screen so he couldn’t see her. He wheeled his chair further back, so she pushed the screen aside, looked directly at him and said firmly, “You’re staring at me. This is a professional setting; please stop.”

The man immediately wheeled his chair back to the desk and stared at his permits till the engineer returned. I was awed; the woman had firmly, but politely, shut down unwanted attention from a stranger without even raising her voice. However, I was irritated as it occurred to me that the man probably wouldn’t have respected such a rebuke if it had come from, say, a waitress or a bartender, instead of a city official. I was also shocked to see someone hit on a city official so blatantly, apparently because he was bored.

Submitted by KS on 7/16/2009

Location: 941 N. Capitol St. NE at the DC city government permit office

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

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