A Victory Against Street Harassment

At HBDC, we don’t just want to highlight the horrible incidences of gender based sexual harassment that are happening daily in DC.  We think it is equally important to show how individuals are holding harassers accountable for their actions.  In order to change the culture of gender based sexual harassment that we live in, we need to ban together as community, and take back our right to feel  safe  in public spaces and to live in a world free of gender based sexual harassment!

We give a HUGE HIGH FIVE to one of our loyal HBDC for her success.  We also want to thank any business that refuses to put up with sexual harassment.  So THANK YOU, Hill’s Chimney Service!

Her Story

Picture from http://joeshaw.org

Picture from http://joeshaw.org

A large black utility van turns a corner, and its passengers yell “Howya doin’, Darlin’?” at me. I don’t respond, and the men cackle like the hyenas from “The Lion King.” Ugh!

I got the company’s name — Hill’s Chimney Service. The van drives so fast that I’m worried I’m not going to be able to snag its license plate number.

The van gets stuck at a light, and I’m praying in my head that I catch up to it before the light changes. The light changed and I was worried I’d lose them. Someone must’ve been looking out for me, because they don’t make it this cycle and get stuck again. I pull out my Post-It pad, and I fumble for a pen. Luckily I still had the Jeopardy pen I’d received as a consolation gift for not being able to audition (another story, another day) and write down the license plate number: MD 51N 005. Yes!

I continue on, and these fools have the audacity to still try to catcall at me. The one in the passenger seat (always the one on the passenger side, damn scrub) has this shit-eating grin and is giggling, but when I said “You sexually harassed me, so I took down your license plate number and will report you,” that grin turned into a frown and he immediately rolled up his window. I could still hear some giggling, but I repeated, “You will be reported.” More on this later.

When I arrived at work, one of the first things I did was call Hill’s Chimney Service to report their catcalling employees. A kindly receptionist answered the phone, and when I told her what the call was about, she replied with “Oh my goodness!” She left a message for Mike, the supervisor.

About 40-something minutes later, Mike calls back. I relay the story to him and he was upset.

“My company does not condone this!” he said. “I am a family man, I love my wife, I would never do that to a woman, and I truly apologize for this behavior. That behavior does not represent Hill’s Chimney Service as a whole.”

When I gave the license plate number, he gave me the names of the culprits: “Richard and Tyrone.”

He told me that he will reprimand them as soon as he sees them, and hopes that I never see them again.

“If you do see them again and they do that again, please call me,” Mike said.
“Will do,” I said.

So a small victory against street harassment is mine, but it doesn’t tackle the bigger war against it.

Submitted by anonymous


7 responses to “A Victory Against Street Harassment

  1. wow! that is awesome. let’s give these folks a call and say thanks for taking this person’s request seriously.


  2. That’s great! I wonder if this would also work with other situations where men who on the job sexually harass women? (I’m thinking construction workers, etc.) Possibly not, because it’s likely the reason this was successful was that when the company’s name is on the van, the owner doesn’t want his employees giving the company a bad name. It might not work the same way with people who are working on a site, but a good tactic to remember!

  3. Construction sites usually have their company’s name hanging up on a banner, so if you see that banner and they’re harassing you, report them!

  4. I am of two minds about this. I feel like for a large company where the economic and social advantages possessed by the owner of the company and the workers is so stark, there are probably different strategies that I would employ rather than calling uppper management and putting workers in danger of their jobs. Laborers can often be the lowest-paid and/or most disposable employees.

    I’ve used the call-the-management strategy before – don’t get me wrong. I just have mixed feeling about it these days if I’m basically put in the position of reporting a group of men of color to an almost certainly white company owner.

  5. Golden Silence

    …there are probably different strategies that I would employ rather than calling uppper management and putting workers in danger of their jobs. Laborers can often be the lowest-paid and/or most disposable employees…

    …I just have mixed feelings about it these days if I’m basically put in the position of reporting a group of men of color to an almost certainly white company owner.

    But if these men truly cared about their jobs then they wouldn’t be catcalling women in the first place. Are you saying instead of making harassers accountable for their actions we should worry that we don’t come off as discriminatory? I’m Black, and whether or not I’m helping “the Man” keep a “po’ brotha” down is not my concern. My main concern is myself and my own well-being. Whether you’re Black, White, Latino, whatever — you harass me, you get reported.

  6. back in brooklyn we lived down the block from a museum under renovations across the street from a middle school. the workers would harass in plain sight and sound of the children, which was absolutely beyond the pale. i called the management not of the company but the museum, and they were VERY responsive!

  7. I am certainly not advocating at ALL that women not do what is best for their safety and security. I also think that addressing the harassers in other ways than speaking only with management is a possibility in certain situations.

    For example, I heard of a group of women who hung a banner outside of their dormitory that faced the construction site where they were getting harassed. I have a friend who confronted a group of workers who harassed her on her walk and spoke to them directly, as a group, which alleviated the situation.

    I realize this is not possible in every situation, and I would never say that there is a one-size-fits-all solution for anything. But I do think that there are different varieties of activism and self-defense that are possible in different situations, depending on the person’s energy level, safety, and investment in the situation.

    I don’t agree with your statement that if men cared about their jobs, they wouldn’t harass. Men often see harassment as their prerogative, and are supported in their harassment on the job by other men. If there are anti-harassment regulations in place, they are not taken seriously by either the management or the workers.

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