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.