Verbally Addressing Gendered Based Violence

Last Friday we received this comment under CTA Bus Drivers have Problems with New Policies:

What should we do in the moment in response to gender based harassment in the city? What does one do when someone says “Hey baby” or makes a vulgar gesture? I mean, if someone touches me, my martial arts training may kick in, and I can justify self defense. But verbally? Or from a distance?

Although we have not blogged about it much, at Holla Back DC!, we talk a lot about the different methods used to verbally address gender based violence and figure this is the perfect opportunity to share our thoughts and what we’ve learned along the way.

There are many different ways to respond to gender based harassment and we’ve heard about individuals employing a variety of different methods. One thing we always keep in mind is that there is no one “right way” to respond. We have to gauge our responses on a number of different factors such as our sense of safety and what we feel most comfortable with.

Photo by charlottel via flickr

Photo by charlottel via flickr

At Holla Back DC!, we personally believe in nonviolent methods that engage our oppressors, as well as give us our own power back. We learned these methods from one of our sheros, Marty Langelan. One of the great things about using nonviolent confrontation is that it will surprise your perpetrator.

These methods are from Marty Langelan’s book Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1993).

Name the behavior. Describe exactly what the harasser is doing, stating behavior (“you are exposing yourself”), principle (“this is about respect”) and a direct command (“put that penis back in your pants right now”).

Interrupt the harasser with this all-purpose statement: “Stop harassing. I don’t like it—no one likes it. Show some respect.”

Put up a “stop sign.” Put your hands in front of your chest, palms out, look the harasser in the eye and say, “Stop right there.”

Make an A-B-C statement. “When you do A [when you say “hey sexy” for example], the effect is B [it makes me uncomfortable] and I want C [from now on just say “hello”].”

Ask a Socratic question.(One of our personal favorites.) “That’s so interesting—can you explain why you think you can put your hand on my leg?” The more idiotic the action the more impossible it will be for the harasser to explain.

Here are some additional verbal defense suggestions from one of our other sheros, Lauren Taylor from Defend Yourself.

Remember when using nonviolent confrontation it is important to stay calm (no insults, sarcasm, cursing or yelling), stand tall, make eye contact and use a matter-of-fact voice.

The most important thing to remember is to only use these methods when you feel safe enough to use them. If you feel unsafe, get away from your perpetrator as soon as possible.

If you have an experience about using one of the methods we just mentioned or any other methods you find useful, we would LOVE for you to share.


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