Monthly Archives: January 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us!

One year ago today, Holla Back DC! found us.

Last year on January 29th, we met to talk about how to start a RightRides chapter in DC.  It was a frigid cold evening and we met over tea and salty oat cookies at the Teaism in Dupont Circle.  Little did we know what our conversation that day would turn into.

One thing led to another, and we started talking about street harassment, our experiences, the prevalence, and the silence of the problem.  We were both inspired from Marty Langelan’s training on street harassment and sexual harassment that we attended a few months earlier.  We realized then that there was no avenue for folks to talk about their public sexual harassment experiences in DC and that there need to be a way to give a voice to the problem. So the seed for Holla Back DC! was planted.  We emailed Emily, co-founder of Holla Back NYC and immediately got to work on planning the April launch of Holla Back DC!

It is amazing to look back over the year and see just how far we’ve come, from a small blog to building a grassroots movement.  To see our community talking about public sexual harassment and how to create a DC that is free from public sexual harassment is the most incredible thing.

Thank you to all of our readers, individuals who have submitted their experiences, online and offline supporters, donors, friends, interns, families and partners.  None of this would be possible without all of you and your support!

What to do?

Cross posted from Stop Street Harassment Blog:

I live in a D.C. suburb (Md) in a well-established community that has a small town atmosphere. There are lots of walking paths and recreation. I am frequently out and about, walking, jogging, biking, as I don’t have a car and work in the community. I’m in forties and carry myself with confidence. I’m tall and fit. I don’t think of myself as any kind of easy mark and certainly had hoped I’d aged out of being harassed in general.

For the last several years, though, a resident man has been occasionally sexually harassed me. At first it didn’t quite register; this is the kind of place where you say hello when you pass someone and it’s not uncommon to frequently see the same people. But it soon became unmistakable.

Turns out this guy has bothered my (even older) sister too. He’s a short, fat, repellent fellow -sorry, I have to say it; I don’t feel charitable – and one of his favorite methods is to bike by a woman, wait until the last possible minute and then make a lewd comment or sound, after which he quickly bikes away. I had just been doing the Old Conventional Wisdom of saying nothing but feeling totally icky inside whenever this happened. Any time I’d see him, I’d get wary and tense up.

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Photo by Jersey JJ via flickr

Photo by Jersey JJ via flickr

I was inspired by a recent story to share mine. It happened about a year ago, and I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I now realize it was harassment.

I used to commute home from the U Street station. I would arrive on the platform a little after 5pm every evening. I would take my spot along the platform, the same spot each day.

One evening as I was standing, waiting for the train, a group of young guys in their late teens came down the escalator towards the platform. I thought nothing of it, since a lot of teenagers hang out and around this station.

A train was just coming into the station as these guys made it to the bottom of the escalator. I began to inch closer to the edge of the platform. At the EXACT moment that the front of the train was next to me, one of the young guys runs right up next to my face and screams as loud as he can “BOOOOO”.

My heart rate didn’t slow down the entire way home. It still makes me angry, even a year later.

Submitted by anonymous on 1/27/2010

Location: U Street Metro

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 Groping Polls

We just found out about Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten‘s polls on groping.  He was inspired by the Sexist’s recent groping series. To determine if groping is in fact a problem Weingarten had two polls, one for his male readers and one for his female readers.

Some key results of the poll (via the Sexist):

* Of the 1553 women who took Weingarten’s quiz, 84 percent attested to have been groped at least once; 18 percent claimed to have been groped “so often I lost count.”

* 78 percent of women said that they never “officially complained about being groped”—whether to the groper or some sort of authority.

* 61 percent of women said that if a stranger touched them in order to become aroused on a crowded train or bus, “I would quietly try to get out of there, but not make a scene.”

* Despite those numbers, women were pretty divided on whether my groping coverage “overstates the problem.” 21 percent of women say that the column “seriously” overstates the problem; 44 percent say that the column overstates the problem “maybe a little bit”; 34 percent don’t believe the column overstates the problem “at all.”

Meanwhile, 1001 men submitted their thoughts on groping to Weingarten’s quiz. Ever wonder how many readers of Gene Weingarten’s column are serial sexual assailants? Now we know!:

* 90 percent of men think that it is “ethically and/or morally wrong” to grope a woman.

* 77 percent of men claim never to have committed a grope; only 12 guys (1.2 percent) admitted to practicing groping “often.”

* 5 percent of men have this view of groping: “I think playful touching is exactly that, playful touching. If a woman complains, Ill stop, but otherwise, cmon.”

While we are highly disturbed that 12 men actually admitted they “often” grope, we are happy to see both the Washington City Paper and the Washington Post covering the problem of groping.

The Screamer

I know what happened to my best friend and I was an act of harassment. I know that the real cause for it was sexual. I also know that most people would just brush it off.

Two weeks ago my best friend and I were shopping in Adams Morgan. She had seen a dress she liked in one store and we had decided to go back and get it. We were walking back up 18st when I saw two  boys, in there early twenties step, out of an ally and start walking towards us. Something about them made me nervous. They were both staring right at my friend and, as silly as it sounds, there was something threatening about the way they walked. As they drew level, I started to think they would just walk by. Suddenly one of the boy lunged at my friend. He got so close to her face I though he was going to hit her. Instead he just screamed at the top of his lungs right in to her face.

That was it.

I know it seems like a stretch, but it was so obvious to me that his core motive was sexual. He was big muscular guy dominating a pretty girl.

What was really scary was they didn’t even laugh. They just kept walking. It hadn’t been a joke. It was just angry. Even though he never touched her, it was violent. Even though he only screamed, he was clearly saying “I am stronger then you, I could do anything I wanted to you.”

One thing that’s going to stick with me for a very long time is the memory of how close he got to my friend, how easily he could have grabbed her or hit her. Both what he did physically and his mental decision to do it was so calculated and so aggressive it was just one small step away from assault.

Submitted by gg on 1/26/2010

Location: right outside of 2206 18th Street in Adams Morgan

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.

Save the Date: Vagina Monologues!

We are excited to announce our partnership with the Washington College of Law.  Proceeds from their upcoming performances of the Vagina Monologues will go towards the launch of the Holla Back DC! program, RightRides DC, which will offer free safe rides for women and LGBTQ in DC on Friday and Saturday night.

When: Saturday, February 13th at 7PM and Sunday, February 14th at 4:30PM
Where: The Washington College of Law, room 603 at 4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20016
Cost: $10

We’ll be there at each performance to tell you more about RightRides DC and how you can get involved as a volunteer.

Anti-LGBTQ Public Sexual Harassment

We know that public sexual harassment in among individuals in the LGBTQ community is happening in alarming numbers. It is also something that the DC community doesn’t talk about enough.

Check out this article from MetroWeekly, Unpackig the Numbers, Racism, Poverty and the Response to Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crimes in D.C. (Thanks for the tip Patti!)

We love the authors analysis of the problem and agree that an increase in policing is not the solution. We want to challenge all of you to think about how we can implement community-based solutions to end anti-LGBTQ public sexual harassment and violence.