Monthly Archives: June 2011

“I grabbed his wrist, peeled his hand of my arm…”

I was walking home to my apartment which is two blocks from the Clarendon metro station when I passed the Clarendon Grill. A vaguely drunk guy grabbed my arm, wrenched me back towards him, and began painstakingly reciting his phone number at me.

Fortunately, part of what I love about living where I do is the presence of armed guards 24/7 outside a government-related building across the street from the Clarendon Grill, so I knew I could basically do whatever I wanted and the situation wouldn’t really escalate. I grabbed his wrist, peeled his hand off my arm, looked him in the eye and said, “You know I’m not even going to TRY to remember your phone number, right? I don’t go out with guys who grab women on the street,” and kept walking. His friends all died laughing, which I knew was more because “damn, you just told told by a GIRL” rather than “ooh, you deserve to be embarrassed because you don’t know how to behave in public,” but it still felt nice.

He called after me “Can we start over?” I turned around, gave him the middle finger, and kept walking. It was the first street harassment experience I’ve had where I walked away very pleased at my response – but that’s because I always want to get snarky and rude back. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t across the street from police officers and security guards that I walk by on a daily basis, but it was nice that I felt so secure in telling him off.

Submitted by anonymous

Location: Clarendon

Time of harassment: Night (7:30P-12A)

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

Followed on VT Ave

For the second time this month, a creepy European guy has followed me around VT ave, trying to solicit sex. The first time, he kept poking me in the arm with his business card. I got loud to call attention to us & went a whole other direction.

This time, I got loud again, & picked up my phone. I told him I was going to take his picture for the cops. He fell back. Or so I thought. When I turned the corner, there he was, behind me. I had to go hide with some folks who were smoking outside (and I’m asthmatic), while the guy pretended he had to go to the post office. Less than a minute later, he came out & went into another store closer to where I was standing. The smokers let me know when he wasn’t looking so I could scurry away.

Just in case, I also described him to my building’s security officer & informed her that he should not be allowed in. Ridiculous.

Submitted by @AmandaMichelle

Vermont Avenue

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

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



A man on the metro was wearing a shirt that said “I support single mothers” and in the middle were pictures of strippers sliding around a pole. You know, I am for free speech and clearly he was wearing this shirt for a reaction. I can’t tell him to take it off, but I did stare at in disbelief. Mostly in the, “omg does he think a woman will want to go home with him while he wears that shirt?” kind of reaction.

The guy and his friend saw me reading it and asked what my problem was. I replied that my mother was a single mom for 9+ years and I simply found his shirt disgusting. His right to wear it… but when you ask me my opinion I am going to give it to you! He told me to get a life and called me a bitch and said other rude things about me under his breath. You know what, I don’t care what he said though. I felt like I stood up for my mother and the other single moms who busted their asses to raise children without a man or other partner in th e picture. If he wants to joke about that fine, but other women are going to call him out on it and I hope he learned something. The train came and I told him he was an asshole and how dare he say rude things to a young girl who was standing up for her mother and the other single moms out there who had the hard job of raising children without the support of a partner.

Submitted by KB

Location: Mt. Vernon Square

Time of harassment: Late Night (12A-5A)

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

Public Masturbator in Dupont Circle

I was feeling rather down over a breakup, so I went to sit by the fountain at Dupont Circle and just relax a bit. As I walked down Connecticut Ave. and approached the outside of the circle, people leaving the circle and walking toward Connecticut Ave. passed all around me heading in the opposite direction. Within that large cloud of people, however, my intuition picked up on one individual in particular. A man in his early 30’s or so. He didn’t look particularly dangerous or different from the other people, but my intuition flickered when I saw him notice me, and I immediately thought to myself: PREDATOR. When you’ve experienced as much harassment as I have, you get to a point where you’ve developed a 6th sense about these things.

As he passed by me, I heard him mutter something under his breath in reaction to the sight of me, but I just kept walking. –With the firm knowledge that, despite the direction he was walking in (away from the fountain I was headed toward), I’d see him again in about 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 minutes. And sure enough, 5 minutes later, as I was sitting peacefully at the fountain with my feet in the water, I saw him out of the corner of my eye casually walking around the circle “innocently” looking for a free place to sit. What a shock when that free place just randomly happened to be right next to me!

I was on the phone with my mother, and really not in the mood for some creep to try to talk to me, so I just sat there ignoring the fact that he was facing me and looking at my legs in my sundress. I did, however, immediately take my pepper spray out of my bag and hold it firmly in my hand.

After a few moments of wondering why he wasn’t trying to talk to me, it occurred to me: Of course. He wasn’t there to talk to me: He was there to jerk off to me. I didn’t even have to look at him to know that he was rubbing the growing erection in his pants as he stared at me. But I did eventually look, and of course, I was right. I told my mom I had to get off the phone, propped my finger on the pepper spray switch, and then turned to the woman next to me and told her I was about to call the police because the man next to me was masturbating, and asked her to please be a witness (because the last time this happened, the police couldn’t arrest the man since I was the only witness).

Startled and repulsed, she glanced in his direction, which caused him to realize he was about to be exposed. In true, predator-coward fashion, he immediately stood up to slink away. But this time, something came over me, and I wasn’t having it. I immediately pulled my feet out of the fountain, dialed 911, and stood up right next to him. Nervous but not wanting to draw attention to himself, he began to walk away. And I began to walk right behind him, speaking very loudly to the 911 operator, telling her that a man in Dupont Circle was sitting next to me and masturbating. He of course picked up his pace, and I did the same, raising my voice so that everyone in the circle could hear me telling the police what was happening. At this point, realizing I was on the phone with the police and that people were staring at the furious barefoot girl following am man through the circle screaming on the phone, I he began to trott away.

And I swear to god, something just snapped inside of me. I started screaming at him, “You can’t run away, sir! You can’t just sit in a park and jerk off publicly to the site of a woman and then run away when the cops are called!” ……….which caused him to BOLT down New Hampshire Ave. and disappear around a corner.

All the while, the utterly disinterested dispatcher on the phone commanded me in an irritated tone to not yell at the man. I told her he was running away, and she said she would send someone out.

No cop ever came. The dispatcher didn’t even take my name for the report. –Neither of these things surprised me, but they still infuriated me.

–As did this incident. After nearly 5 years of being verbally, physically, and passively (i.e. public masturbation) harassed in DC, I AM ANGRY. Something has come over me, and I officially want to fight back. Up until this incident, I’ve always been too possessed by sheer shock when these things happen to actually do anything. But this time, probably because I’m so used to it by now that shock is secondary to rage and disgust, I was collected and poised and utterly determined to nail this motherf*cker.

As he ran away, rather than feeling possessed by the horror that usually grips me when a man masturbates to me in public, I felt furious with myself: I was ready this time. I had my pepper spray right there. And I didn’t spray him!!!
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Our Streets, Too! Post-Rally Wrap-Up

What we love about DC is that it can be so unpredictable!! With only two weeks of preparation, and all the organizers organizing via email, we were scared if anyone would show up. The rally, Our Streets, Too! A Big Queer/Feminist/Allies Street Fest, started off at SunTrust plaza on 18th and Columbia. We never realized, until yesterday, under the blazing sun, how there really aren’t many places in DC to gather that aren’t related to parks (which, let’s be real, are mostly dog parks). People started making signs, assisting with the incredible banner, and sharing their stories of harassment. Then at 2P, Batala started playing. If you haven’t heard them, man, you are missing out on an amazing group of sisters who can really rock a drum. Everyone was dancing and enjoying themselves, while more people started gathering.

Curious onlookers asked, “What is this about? Why are people gathering?” And, fliers went out to them with volunteers talking about street harassment in DC towards women and LGBTQ individuals. Watching and listening to some of these bystanders say, “Yeah, harassment does happen and it really shouldn’t,” made the rally planning and stress worth it.

Around 2:30, the march started down 18th Street. A la Rob Lowe on Parks and Recreation, we literally stopped traffic, as the march took over the streets. It was amazing. MPD stopped the protest a few times, but, no one was arrested and they didn’t give us much push back.

Going Down on 18th Street NW

The Banner

We made a left on U Street and marched up 16th Street towards Malcolm X park. While at Malcolm X park, we had our workshop leaders, Holly from Stop Street Harassment and Board member of Holla Back DC! and Dienna, an activist, talk about ways to address street harassment and share in the collective activism around this issue. While they were skills sharing with a group of 20 to 25, others were mingling and talking about DC social justice activism, when a Park Police officer came over and told us to cut off the amplified music and asked if we were protesting. We told him that we weren’t, as our protest was done, and we were conducting workshops.  He then walked up a set of stairs towards a group of people who were placing the anti-harassment banner on an over hang. He told them to take it down, and when all individuals left, he followed the two women and started yelling at them to take down the banner. He then proceeded to ask for their IDs, which they gave over, and detained them without telling them what they did wrong.

That's right!!

Because of the Park Police officer’s lack of knowledge around criminal law or lack of wanting to share why he was detaining these women, many rally goers started to get involved and ask the officer what these two women did wrong, since the banner was taken down. He said, “I had to ask them twice.” The officer proceeded to call in his unit, which included five other officers (including the captain/chief, and special ops). It was a sight for sore eyes and a lawyer’s dream.

After that 30 minutes of that intense drama, the two women were not papered or arrested. It was all for show. And the irony is that many of our issues around street harassment come from people who abuse their authority. The two women remained calm through out the process, which was just amazing.

Make DC Harassment FREE!

Lauren, from Defend Yourself, did a wonderful workshop which concluded the protest and rally. Seeing so many people gather in support of raising awareness on street harassment, stopping traffic, and getting some skills on how to address the harassment was a great way to start the summer.

Many thanks to the supporters and friends of Holla Back DC! who came out to the rally!

If you were at the rally or wanted to be, and feel inspired to get more involved in this issue, please fill out this volunteer form and we’ll get back to you!

Harassed while doing Yoga

I was participating with a group of people in the free weekly yoga in the circle at Dupont Circle on Wednesday, March 15th. As it is outside and open to the public, there are people who may stare, make comments or what have you. Generally, it is not too atrocious, but it can be uncomfortable. Yesterday, a young man sat within a few feet of the group and began to snap photos of the entire yoga group while we were in positions like downward facing dog (behinds in the air). I debated if I was going to say anything to the young man and I decided to say something to the woman leading the group. She briskly responded about how it was a public space and these types of things happened. She apologized “if I felt uncomfortable”. Another woman in the group actually said, “you should go say something” in a sarcastic tone.

In the end, I understand that situations like this are complicated, however, it definitely could have been handled better. Just because we are in public and enjoying something for free, does not mean we should expect to be harassed or photographed. I really enjoyed doing yoga outside, but I would rather be respected.

Submitted by Christina

Location: Dupont Circle

Time of harassment: Evening Rush Hour (3:30P-7:30P)

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

“Slow down, baby.”

Photo by kekka via flickr

I was jogging in Columbia Heights and passed two men. One of them said “slow down, baby.” Slow down? I’m jogging! Sheesh. I firmly said “that’s inappropriate, please don’t say that” and jogged away. The man had a not so happy retort, but I couldn’t hear over the music from my headphones.

Submitted by anonymous

Location: 13th St. N.W. & Monroe St. N.W.

Time of harassment: Evening Rush Hour (3:30P-7:30P)

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