From the Forum – Harassed on H Street NE by Uniformed DC EMTs

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Harassed on H Street NE by Uniformed DC EMTs

“Late last night/early this morning (~1:40am) [June 13th], my roommate and I were walking on H Street NE and were harassed by two DC EMTs while they were driving an ambulance.

As we headed west, the two misogynistic cretins driving the ambulance approached us driving east and at first, leaned on the horn of the ambulance as they came to a stoplight at H and 8th–the move was clearly directed at the two of us, as we were walking alone. Not understanding why an emergency vehicle would honk at us, we looked back, confused, at which point the two decided to leer at us openly. In response, I walked into the street to take a picture of the license plate (DC special police/fire/EMT plate 8206).

Though we thought we were safe because the ambulance sped away (made left turn onto side street) and called 911 to report the incident, the EMTs came back around and followed us down the street for half a block, leaning on the horn at us while we walked.

Has anyone else experienced this type of blatant harassment? I attempted to rectify the issue by calling 911 and placing a non-emergency call to the dispatch station (ineffective) and by leaving a message with the DC Fire personnel line, but am wondering if there is anything else I could do to report this absolutely unacceptable behavior.

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45 Comment

  • houseintherear

    This isn’t exactly the same, but… when the 1st St water project first began in Bloomingdale, there were many workers who were verbally harassing and leering at women residents. It was quite awful and uncomfortable, and felt threatening. Apparently there were a lot of complaints immediately, mine included. Those particular men, most of whom were working at the 1st and Bryant construction area, were not there a few days later. I’d hope they lost their jobs, but I’d guess they were just reassigned. So, my advice is to make a formal complaint and keep it as brief and professional as possible. Use phrases (if they apply) such as: “I felt threatened,” or “We were alone and it did not feel safe,” etc. Do not call the men names, just describe their appearance and give as much info as possible. Make sure you note that you will be following up on the complaint and have shared the experience with many people (I even mentioned my lawyer, aka a good friend who is a lawyer :), when I made my complaint to DCWater). Good luck- Sorry this happened to you.

  • west_egg

    Contact your councilmember and the mayor’s office. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior from anyone, let alone an EMT.

  • Not trying to be nitpicky, but does misogynistic mean they hate women (or something like that)? I don’t think they “hate” women is sort of scenario…

    • If you objectify women and make them feel safe, you are acting out unnecessary aggression toward a person you don’t know. That’s the same as rolling up and calling me a faggot – unwanted name calling that make the person they are directed at feel diminished. That’s hate.

  • So, an ambulance honked a horn at you twice and you felt “harassed”? So much so that you called 911? I agree that what happened to you sounds… well, unpleasant.
    But “harassed”? Really? Are you sure you’re not over-reacting a bit much to a horn? Was there something more substantial than horn honking and looking at you that actually elevates to harassment that you left out of your story?

    • A horn and a look is PLENTY to threaten/harass, especially coming from people in a position of authority. Your troll effort is weak.

    • Tell me, Shaw, when was the last time someone followed you, with clear intent to let you know you were being followed, just because of some immutable physical characteristic? How did that make you feel? Was it threatened, scared, maybe “harassed,” or just “unpleasant?” This weather makes me feel unpleasant. Being followed by strangers who are likely physically bigger than me, who want me to KNOW I’m being followed rises a *tad* above unpleasant.

      • I’m a gay guy living in a transitional neighborhood. I assure you, I understand what real harassment is. Being honked at by a car that circled the block one time just doesn’t get there for me. Again, it’s possible there’s more to the story than what’s above, but what’s above seems pretty tame.

        • Operative words: “I’m a guy.”

          • Gay men have been attacked all over the city not simply leered at. Him being male isn’t saving him.

          • @ AnonSpock: I wasn’t speaking to his likelihood of attack. I was speaking to his ignorance of how being a woman ups the creep factor and potential for danger when some weirdo decides to follow you around in the wee hours of the night. a) the possibility of being raped is not a concern that seems to be in the forefront of most guys’ minds. So they don’t get why women are so leery of situations like this. b) He’s probably not in tune with how quickly some guys can go from trying to pick you up to being aggressive and threatening when they don’t get their way. c) the size differential between him and a potential attacker is likely to be a lot smaller than the size differential between the OP and a potential attacker. So yes, in his mind such an interaction is probably no big deal. But that doesn’t mean that the same was the case for the OP. They got away from the creeps this time, but it could have just as easily gone the other way.

          • Look, I completely sympathize with this woman and don’t think she should have to put up with harassment from EMTs.
            On the other hand there’s no reason to discount shaw’s experience just because he’s a guy. He’s entitled to his opinion and, if anything, statistically more likely to be attacked in this city than a woman on the street. Just because you “feel” scared as a woman doesn’t mean anything is all that likely to happen. Random sexual assaults are exceedingly rare, while gay men get the sh*t beat out of them all the time for no reason. Are we supposed to discount that reality just because you “feel” scared as a woman?
            I don’t think anyone should be subject to harassment on the street, but I also don’t think there are any oppressed olympics about who should be entitled to an opinion about what.

          • @blahblahblah – I don’t think being (insert minority qualifier here) “ups the creep factor” unless you actually believe that being a member of that group somehow makes you weak or feeble or ill prepared to handle yourself. I don’t subscribe to the cliche of the limp-wristed gay man who would squeal in horror like I was in some campy horror flick to describe myself, and let me assure you, some of the fiercest women I know may not look like much at 5′ and 100lbs, but they are absolutely the worst nightmare I could imagine if you give them reason to be.
            As to your other points, A.) you have absolutely no idea what is or isn’t in the forefront of my mind and should stop trying to assume that you do. B.) Have you ever been to a gay bar? Try being hit on by someone you do not care to talk with who thinks all men should want sex as much as they do and then talk to me about my life experience. C.) Size differential between you and any one “potential attacker” doesn’t matter when you’re outnumbered. My determination that such an interaction is “probably no big deal” is because it wasn’t.
            Then again, growing up gay I have a much thicker skin than most about people saying / yelling / etc things that are offensive, hurtful, or unpleasant about me. I’ve heard my own Senator yell offensive things about me on the floor of the United States Congress. If it doesn’t get physical or have a verbalized explicit threat of getting physical, I don’t let it bother me anymore. As @Anon Spock pointed out, my community has enough threats in this city that actually do get violent and sadly at least once a year or so, get gay men like myself killed.

          • Rather than waging a battle about “who has it worse,” why not try to understand what the other person is feeling? Being harassed by someone in a vehicle when you’re on foot, particularly at night, is terrifying. You can’t outrun them, and they are in possession of something (the vehicle) that could aid any crime they have their mind set on in a big way. While it’s unlikely EMTs would do anything criminal, random person/people in a car might, and you can’t even see 3/4 of them to have any indication if they appear to be carrying a weapon or whatnot. No matter how tough you are, you’re not a match for a weapon.
            In addition, while I’m not dismissing your experiences of gay bashing, you yourself suggest that a random person on the street probably doesn’t know you’re gay to just see you walking by. A random person on the street definitely knows I’m a woman. And they use that “against” me pretty regularly. The first time I was harassed I was 8. The worst time (long story, but it was public humiliation from an adult in a crowded place that went unanswered by the hundreds of adults that heard it), I was 14. The scariest time was a couple years ago when a man followed me and graphically described how he would rape and kill “a b****” for being so full of herself, in public, in broad daylight, in a crowded location, at the top of his lungs, because I ignored him when he catcalled me. He was very careful not to say he intended to do any of those things to me specifically, so when I spoke to the police a few minutes later (it was bad enough that I called, despite the fact that enraged him more), they said they couldn’t do anything about it. It’s also been a, basically, lifelong thing for me. And congressmen have said some pretty vile things about women, too.
            Pretty much so any group that’s not white, straight, cis men have some pretty awful stories to tell. Even some white, straight, cis men probably have some awful stories to tell, particularly if they’ve ever stood up for someone or been assumed to be not white, straight, or cis for some reason. It’ll probably be a lot easier to fight the issue if we don’t dismiss each other’s feelings about how we’re treated. It may not seem like a big deal to you. Accept that is a frightening experience for some. I don’t want it to happen to you, either, even if you let it roll right off your back. There’s a massive problem when men, at work, who can probably be easily identified, feel entitled to bother women walking down the street in a manner they HAD to know would cause some level of fear.

          • @ Shaw: You being comfortable with something does not mean that everyone is, or has to be. You not seeing something as a problem doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect other people or that they are unjustified in wanting a bad situation to stop. I’m confused by your need to deny that your experience as a man and the OP’s experience as a woman are fundamentally different. @JoDa hit the nail on the head about why that is so.

            So I’m not sure why you feel the need to try to impose your personal narrative as some sort of universal truth that applies to all people. Whether you can perceive it it or not, this situation could have been really dangerous for the OP and gone really bad, really fast. Thankfully, it did not-this time. But that doesn’t make what the EMTs did OK, nor does it invalidate the OP being upset that she had to go through this scare because some jackasses felt like bullying her.

          • justinbc

            I’m just curious, what’s a “cis” man?

          • Justin, “cis” means you self-identify with your birth gender. “Trans” is the opposite of “cis”.

        • Real harassment? Just because these guys didn’t physically harm or threaten the OP and her roommate does not mean what they experienced wasn’t “real” harassment. It most certainly was. Yes, there are worse things that could have happened, but that doesn’t mean anyone (whether straight, gay, male or female) should be made to feel uncomfortable by CITY EMPLOYEES while walking home at night. This is not some competition (i.e. you imply you’ve experienced worse, which I am truly sorry about). We all need to look out for each other and not put up with this kind of behavior or else it will never stop. Who knows- maybe these guys might do worse to someone else.

          • +1 – Real harassment? I don’t think Shaw realizes how much he just dismissed OP’s experience because he hasn’t experienced something similar. Instead of dismissing her outright, think about why two women walking at night might feel uncomfortable in this situation. If harassment is unwanted and/or repeated attention, I would say OP’s experience falls into that character.

          • Ding ding! Except, “by ANYONE.” This happened to me most recently last summer (following in a vehicle when I’m on foot…if I were only so lucky to experience only one incident of harassment per year), a block from my own house. Dude saw me crossing the street, pulled a u-ie to follow me, and turned around twice more. Didn’t beep…didn’t have to. His message was loud and clear: you don’t have a right to be safe here. If you call the cops, he’ll get mad and possibly attack. If you run, you’ve let him control your life. If you knock on a neighbor’s door for help, and they’re someone like Shaw, he’ll tell you to stop being such a sissy and just let the guy follow you.
            It’s particularly horrifying so close to home. I want to get to safety, but I don’t want the dude to know where I live…

          • justinbc

            I’m not sure why “city employees” should be held to any different standard than other men. They should all not do crap this like, it’s pathetic. As far as I know EMTs don’t take any sort of vow not to be assholes.

          • Justin — I think the idea is “while on the job, representing a known entity.” If someone wants to be a harasser while off duty, that’s their business, but nobody should be a harasser while on duty representing the D.C. government (or UPS, or any other identifiable entity).

        • People use the “well I’ve had it worse so you’re problem doesn’t mean much” for everything. It always drives me crazy.

          Your bad experience doesn’t somehow minimize this person’s bad experience.

          • I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that “shaw” is one of the many Log Cabin Republicans that are now living in and buying up Shaw. The neighborhood is quickly becoming a Republican “gentrified” Disneyland, yeesh.

    • They circled the block to do it again…that sounds like harassment to me.

    • Two points for being a troll, Shaw. Don’t you have something else to do with your time?

    • Sorry shaw, but this most certainly equates to harassment under DC code. Actually, the fact that they came back a second time and followed the victim could elevate this to Stalking under Title 22, Subtitle I, Chap. 31A §3133, which carries a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

      • Absolutely. Plus, even if it weren’t outright illegal, it’s clearly completely unprofessional and unacceptable behavior from uniformed employees who represent the city and need to be disciplined.

        • +1. It’s kind of icky thinking that these two dirtbags might be responsible for picking you up when you’re most vulnerable. Probably better that they just be fired- that level of brazenness (in uniform in a government-bought ambulance) is probably evidence that this is just the tip of the iceberg. What else do they do?

        • Also, leaning on the horn for an extended period at almost 2 o’clock in the morning when there’s no traffic-related reason to do so is totally unprofessional.
          I can see a little “beep beep” honk as being relatively innocuous, even if unwanted (and unprofessional on the part of city employees). But following someone while sounding the horn the whole time seems a lot more threatening/ominous.

      • justinbc

        Don’t you have to establish a pattern for stalking? I disapprove of their behavior, but I don’t think circling the block would really qualify (especially given how dismissive the police usually are).

    • I kind of agree. The first thought that came to my mind was maybe the EMT had a question or something of that nature. Heaven bid, they were going to give the two girls a lift home since OP was walking home late at night on a sketchy block of H Street (8th and H).

    • In exactly what circumstance is it ever acceptable to honk (repeatedly) and leer at an unknown person (or group of persons) who are walking along a city street and minding their own business?

      Like all street harassment, this is a power play. The harasser demands “attend to me” (initial honk) and “receive my commentary on your appearance/whatever gratefully” (leers) or “suffer the unpleasant consequences of my displeasure” (returns to honk at target for blocks). Harassment.

      • Maybe they had toilet paper stuck to their shoe or something?

      • justinbc

        “In exactly what circumstance is it ever acceptable to honk (repeatedly) and leer at an unknown person (or group of persons) who are walking along a city street and minding their own business?”
        Well if you mean anything in the universe of possibilities, maybe they were being followed by a vampire?

    • If these were just random dudes, yeah, it’s annoying and maybe just something to shrug off, but these were uniformed employees, first responders at that. They should be reported, not to 911 as a threat, but to their employer and Councilmember/ANC rep. And they should be reprimanded or punished for their actions.

    • I don’t understand this comment at all. Just because I’m not scared of spiders doesn’t mean I say others shouldn’t be or demean them for their fear. Fear is personal and subjective. The OP was frightened and felt harassed. We don’t need to know the story or if “there was any more information”. She wasn’t asking for your opinion on whether you would have felt harassed in the same situation. She was asking for advice on how to follow up with the incident.

      OP, I really hope you’re able to file a report against those driving the vehicle. No one should harass another human being and those who do should be held accountable.

  • Sorry this happened to you. So some suggestions. Calling 911 really won’t do much except record the call, which could be important, but you wont get resolution.

    DC FEMS has an Internal Affairs Department that you can make a complaint to. In addition, if you know the Ambulance number you can go to the firehouse and ask to speak to the Captain, who is their boss in the field.

  • While it’s says a lot about how much we’ve progressed as a society that we all automatically side with a victim let me offer a different, and likely unpopular opinion. By 2 am a DC ambulance has already gone on at least 18 calls, back to back, nearly non-stop, beggining at 6 am the previous morning. If they are not in route to a call, they would much rather be back at quarters catching a rest break. Perhaps the reason the OP was honked at is because she and her companion walked in the path of the ambulance or the EMTs were concerned they were about to. Why then would they double back? It’s very likely they were looking for the address they were being dispatched to. I’m not suggesting the OP didn’t feel uncomfortable, but I’m also not willing to assume there wasn’t a justifiable reason they were honked at.


      Why defend the ambulance driver and passenger? The OP is looking for advice on how to report the incident. It’s not up to you to determine whether their claim is valid or not. And why if they were merely “doubling back to look for an address” would they need to honk again? Stop trying to find holes in the OP’s claim by playing detective. It’s not helpful.

  • Can you post your picture of the ambulance? Was it a DC Fire ambulance? I ask because since reading your post I have been looking at ambulance license plates. All the plates on fire dept ambulances I saw were the Taxation Without Representation plates and on the side said DC Govt Fleet. Didn’t see any that had any police/fire/emt identifiers on them.

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