“legislation that aims to target and eradicate street harassment in the District through education, awareness, data collection and culture change”

anti harassment
Photo by PoPville flickr user [email protected]

From a press release:

“Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced legislation that aims to target and eradicate street harassment in the District through education, awareness, data collection and culture change. The Councilmember spearheaded the first-ever Council roundtable on street harassment in December 2015 to bring attention to an experience that is all too common for many District residents. The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Silverman, Grosso, Allen, Evans, R. White, and T. White.

“Street harassment is an unfortunate shared experience facing many of the District’s vulnerable populations,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “At the roundtable I spearheaded, we heard heartbreaking testimony about how pervasive and damaging it can be for residents. This legislation sends a strong message that harassing one another on the street is not something that Washingtonians will stand for.”

“Anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies on the federal level have a direct impact on the safety of people here in our community, particularly those who live at the intersections of multiple oppressed identities like queer and trans Muslims,” said Jessica Raven, Executive Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces. “This legislation will equip D.C. agencies to address harassment in all its forms and make public spaces safe for everyone.”

Street harassment is defined as unwanted, disrespectful, or threatening comments, gestures, or other actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent. Harassment is directed at someone because of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.

The legislation establishes an advisory committee which will develop policies, guidelines and procedures to educate District employees to identify and address street harassment; administer funding for street harassment awareness programs; evaluate and make recommendations regarding reporting street harassment; and conduct a survey to collect data so that we have a better understanding on the pervasiveness of street harassment. The bill targets areas where harassment is more common such as public transportation, cabs and ride-sharing services, bars, restaurants, night clubs, schools, colleges, sidewalks, parks and other public spaces.

“We need to create this change while being sensitive to the fact that young people, members of the LGBTQ community, people from communities of color, and people from low-income communities experience more frequent and severe harassment,” said Councilmember Nadeau. “I’m focused on education and culture change because any solution to the problem shouldn’t be an excuse to disproportionately target those same communities through criminalization.”

31 Comment

  • I have been talking about street harassment since I moved to DC. I was even on a BBC segment about the issue. I am a little annoyed that women are not considered a vulnerable group under this initiative. Street harassment against women happens every day in DC and I don’t think it should be over looked here . I personally have been grabbed, chased, someone attempted to grind up against me once , and not a week goes by where a man does not yell something offensive and vulgar. I think we need education on this issue to because a lot of men think its culturally acceptable to treat women this way. I hope this element of street harassment is not ignored.

  • I’m so glad to see this. Good legislative work happening at *some* level in this town…

  • The first step towards solving any problem is to identify what the problem actually is. I’m not trying to be inflammatory here, but this press release was so unnecessarily dressed up in left wing talking points that it almost obscured the true nature of the street harassment problem in DC: a tremendous number of the offenders are black and brown men… and the targets are by and large youngish/attractive females. To lesser but perhaps more threatening extent, it seems members of the LGBTA community are threatened with violence. If this comes off as an assumption, well, I’ve been in DC for 12 years and have spent a lot of time in Bloomingdale, mount pleasant, and beyond; and this is what I have consistently witnessed and therefore presume it is what most people are talking about when they say “street harassment” in D.C. My point being: does national level politics (i.e. Trump) really have anything to do with this issue that’s been going on D.C. for at least decades? Are Muslims REALLY so harassed in D.C. They warrant this type of special call out in the press release? Is The councilwoman being politically correct to the point where it obscures the reality of what is actually happening everyday? In my opinion–yes. Thoughts?

    And to be clear: street harrasssment is terrible. Everyone deserves to be able to walk down the street unharrrassed. I’ve literally had men catcall woman I was walking with… almost leading to fights. So for me, it is a personal issue.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Let me guess. Straight, white male? Maybe don’t presume that your anecdotal observations are the reality for most people.

    • “…and the targets are by and large youngish/attractive females.”
      ….and this is how I know you’re full of crap. Get out of your bubble, bro.

    • Let me guess, you’re also offended by the LGBTQ police task force?

    • How is “straight white male” somehow a credible counterargument? It’s just as bad as saying
      “let me guess, black male.” I mean it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who the perpetrators are. The question is, what actual public policy options do you have to curb down on it short of arresting everyone? I think anyone that was raised by humans understands the immorality of yelling gross sexual stuff at women or gay slurs at the GBLT community, they just choose to do it anyway.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        It had nothing to do with who he claims to be the perpetrators. It is related to his opinion that harassment is mainly an issue for young, attractive women and “to a lesser but perhaps more threatening extent” members of the LGBTQ community before completely dispensing of the notion that Muslims might be harassed in DC. He is making assumptions based on nothing but his personal experience, which is clearly coming from some sort of privileged lens. When you have to state “I’m not trying to be inflammatory here,” before saying something, chances are you are being exactly that.

        • how is experience coming from “some sort of privileged lens”?
          if you sat in my house near U street and watched out the window for street harrassment, what you’d observe is plenty of street harrassment of women and none of muslims. I know this because I’ve watched out my window and observed it.
          Are these invalid observations? Who determines whether my observation is overly privileged or invalid?

          • Tsar of Truxton

            If you think that no Muslims get harassed in DC because you have never personally observed it while looking off your balcony/porch near U Street, then there is really no help for you.

          • who said “no muslims get harrassed in DC”? the patronizing tone is incredibly counterproductive and is precisely what alienated middle america and got trump elected.

        • Really? This is what you are worried about? DC is like the most insanely hyper progressive place on the East Coast. Maybe the same black dudes yelling at young women are also yelling at Muslims (see Gallup and Pew polling for the low reputation African Americans have for Muslims). But even then, its a facet of “Trump’s America” that hasn’t really materialized outside of fear mongering.

          @facts. He’s right is nonsense screams at any deviation from the orthodoxy that turned many Americans towards Trump.

    • Blithe

      Yes, I DO have some thoughts!
      Thought 1: Where exactly are you getting your data regarding what you refer to as “the true nature of the street harassment problem in DC”?
      Thought 2: Why do you presume that your own — admittedly limited experience with two neighborhoods and “beyond” is, indeed, what “most people” either “are talking about” or experience?
      Thought 3: Why are you bringing up “national level politics (i.e. Trump)”? Is it because of the whole “p*ssy gr*bbing” thing?
      Thought 4: Could you tell me a bit more about how this is a “personal issue” for you”? Is it the same kind of “personal issue” as actually being harassed yourself? Or is it some other kind of “personal issue”?
      Thought 5: What exactly do you mean by “political correct”? And “left wing talking points”?
      Thought 6: I really wonder what you would have said if you were actually trying to be inflammatory.

      . I realize that I expressed my “thoughts” in the form of questions. I’ve always believed in trying to get ample information instead of making assumptions when formulating my – – admittedly highly personal — conclusions.

      • I think Bob has a right to his own opinions, as you have a right to your own. Based on my 14 years here, I think is spot on. Based on MY experience, I can’t deny what my own eyes see. I know it’s uncomfortable, but that’s how it is. And Hstreeter gets to the heart of the matter- we all know that harassment is wrong, but some people are just going to harass no matter what. I don’t see how “training” is going to help with that (but I’m sure the people making/administering the “training” are taking this to the bank). If we could talk about how much money and time is wasted in “training,” oh my!

    • You’ve had a woman next to you get catcalled and therefore this is personal? Please. I’m a woman, and I don’t think my experiences have been more egregious than most, but I can assure you, sexual harassers run the gamut when it comes to race or physical appearance. From the 19 year old white kids who’ve tried to grope me while walking down 18th street on a weekend night to the black guy who flashed me from his truck to the Hispanic guys who would congregate on the street corner because of whom I never wore a skirt when I went grocery shopping at the Safeway on Columbia. Maybe white guys in suits aren’t doing *as much* of the catcalling, but as someone who had a Senator put his hand on her thigh and heard countless inappropriate things uttered by old, white lobbyists, I can assure you they’re also not any less innocent.

      • justinbc

        Really the only difference between the harassment by a sleazy white guy and a sleazy black / brown guy in DC is that the white guy will usually do it so others don’t see it (creeping in the club or bar, or at the work place), and the POC is more likely to not GAF (yelling on the street, touching in public). Men are pretty much just awful if left unchecked, and the current political climate certainly hasn’t done anything to improve that. Anyone who thinks that one race is more likely just has a limited definition of what harassment is.

  • Street harassment is clearly is a problem in DC and elsewhere. However . . . “guidelines and procedures to educate District employees to identify and address street harassment.” Really? So they are going to spend time and money training non-law enforcement District employees to intercede when they witness harassment? Is this now a job requirement? That strikes me problematic (and/or ineffective) on multiple levels.
    Or, to quote a friend of mine, “Your tax dollars will be spent to train the street sweeper to pull over and admonish a passerby not to cat all. That’ll work.” (Thanks, Chuck)

    • I think it may be (1.) to train District employees that they shouldn’t harass anyone while on the clock (it’s a legit issue with some municipal workers and gets short shrift in the normal sexual harassment training) and (2.) appropriate response when they witness harassment of a fellow employee or a resident while performing their duties (address victim and attempt to remove them from the situation, do not address harasser, call MPD, etc). The Metro employees really need this type of bystander training….too many of them pretend to ignore a lot of garbage they witness.
      Give people some actionable tools and things will be better for everyone. There’s a lot District employees can do to de-escalate situations that don’t involve confrontation with a harasser.

  • “We need to create this change while being sensitive to the fact that young people, members of the LGBTQ community, people from communities of color, and people from low-income communities experience more frequent and severe harassment.” Is there evidence that these groups experience more harassment than women do?

    • Blithe

      “Is there evidence that these groups experience more harassment than women do?”

      NEWS FLASH: SOME “young people”, SOME “members of the LGBTQ community” , SOME “people from communities of color”, and SOME “people from low-income communities” actually ARE “women”.

      . It might also startle you to know that there are actually “women” who are “young”, “members of the LGBTQ community”, “people from communities of color”, AND “people from low-income communities”. Yes, all at the same time! Imagine that!

      • True but if you do not identify women as a group of people specifically who are targeted by street harassment that you cannot make policy to change culture , the culture of men, to change their behavior. You have to admit the harresing of women because they are women is a problem before you can solve it.

      • what exactly are you trying to achieve with the condescension?

        • Blithe

          Sojourner Truth once painfully said: “Ain’t I a woman?” As a woman who can check off at least one box in the top list too, I found it befuddling at best to see the category of “women” contrasted with several other categories – with no acknowledgement of the possibility that the categories might overlap. What I was trying to achieve was to point out that some women might also be in the other categories listed as experiencing more frequent and severe harassment.
          Cara, I do agree that you have to identify women as a group that is specifically targeted by street harassment. My hope is that any policies or efforts to change behavior clearly recognize that at least some “women” may also be members of one or more of the targeted groups as well.

    • justinbc

      I found “young people” to be an odd inclusion…is that like “hey get off my lawn!” type of stuff or what? Being serious here, I just don’t recall stories of people being harassed just for being kids. (kids doing the harassing, committing crimes, etc is another story)

      • Blithe

        From the time that I was about 12, once puberty had clearly hit, I was catcalled by men; asked out by men in their 20″s and 30’s, and generally treated in some ways as an adult female by strange men on buses, out shopping, while minding my 12 year old business. As a child, I was dealing with what you described as unchecked sleaziness. I’ve no idea if this is what’s intended by the inclusion of “young people”, but I was a young black kid being harassed as a woman. Now that I actually am a woman, I wish that the kid that I was had had some protections beyond endurance, luck, and a smart mouth.

  • If we are most concerned about those who “live at the intersections of multiple oppressed identities,” I wish physically or cognitively disabled DC inhabitants also merited a mention. I know there are young, low-income people of color who are members of the LGBTQ community and are also disabled living in DC. It seems like they would be at more risk of harassment than young, low-income people of color who are members of the LGBTQ community but are not disabled.

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