Please note. . .

Don't Be Silent DC has been inactive since March 2008 and has not been accepting entries since. If you are in the DC area and have a harassment story to share, please go to HollaBack DC. If you are outside the DC area and want to submit your story, go to Stop Street Harassment. Thank you.

As of 3/1/08, I will no longer be working on this blog. Please read this post for more details.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Disturbance at Dupont

I still deal with this crap too often to count.

After I finished volunteering at a homeless shelter for the day, I walked over to Dupont Circle. The weather was nice and I felt energetic. I wanted to practice some of my tae kwon do moves. I am at least a month away from getting my next belt, and I struggle with some of my moves.

During my 100 front punch workout, I start to hear "put more energy into it baby!" and mess like that. I ignore them and finish my punches. These fools wouldn't stop running their mouths. I am not havin' it, so I walk over to confront them.

"Ooh, you made her mad!" one of the men said. "She's comin' over!"

"Look," I said. "I'm trying to practice because I'm trying to get my next belt next month. I don't need y'all screaming and yelling at me...let me workout in peace!"
"We ain't mean nothin' by it, baby," dreadlocked dude said. Then the oldest-looking one in the group tried to explain---
"I've said my piece," I said. "Have a great day."
I went to walk back over to work out, but the oldest one wouldn't let up.
"Excuse me," he said.
"What?" I said.
"We ain't mean nothin' by it---"
"I deal with this shit every single day!" I was heated. "It's 'hey baby' or 'yo sexy'---"
"Did any one of us say that?" he said.
"Your screaming is pretty much the same damn thing!"
"You ain't need to curse. I try to come here like a gentleman, and you need to act like a lady."
"Act like a lady---ha! If I want to curse and yell because I deal with this crap everyday, then that's what I'm gonna do!"
"Look, I can treat you like a lady...or treat you like an asshole."

That comment sent me over the edge.

"I wanna tell you that if you want to practice your karate moves---"
"Tae kwon do, idiot."
"Excuse me! Tae kwon do...whatever. I was gonna tell you that if you don't want people yellin' at you then you need to go to the studio!"
That caused his friends to laugh. Ha. Ha. Whatever.

"I go to the studio three times a week! I want---and have the right---to be outside in nice weather practicing my moves! You need to leave women like me alone!"
"I'm 60 years old and I'm married!"
"Well ya need to go home to your wife!"

More laughter from the Dupont audience.

"And I was gonna tell you that you need to work on your form...and have a better thrust! And you have a good day!"

I was tired from yelling, and of yelling. That got me nowhere. Zero points for me.

I was angry and seething that I can't do squat without dealing with dirty old men. I probably would've been in a nasty mood all day if this girl who witnessed the whole thing didn't make this comment:

"That was brave. I'm glad you confronted them. I don't think I could've done that."

I tell her about this blog and she tells me that she tries to practice yoga in Dupont and idiots like that ruin it.

And while she pulled out a pen and paper (mine were in my other bag at home) for me to write down this blog's address, the men were still running their mouths:

"Oh, she scared! She gonna call the poooooooo-lice!" And more laughter.

"She's so calling the police...whatever. They don't have anything better to do," the girl said.
"Exactly," I said.

As aggravating as it is to deal with street harassment, support from peers is a really good thing to experience.

Should we toughen up in reacting to the harassers?

This message came from reader Victoria:

I'm truly intrigued by your site and would like to throw an item (and my two cents) in the ring.

I've noticed that a lot of the contributors to your site bloggers who have linked to your site are women. And it seems to be their experience, and certainly mine, that much street harassment is directed toward women. Not that there aren't "gender neutral" incidents--like the time a homeless guy chased my boyfriend and I down the escalator at Farragut West, screaming obscenities at us because we didn't have a light; or the time a man at McPherson Square tried to pick a fight with anyone who came up the escalator, but I'm starting to digress.

I heard two particularly bad stories from friends lately, involving cab drivers being overly agressive and/or suggestive (I won't go into them here) and since then what has really dawned on me about all this behavior is how women are willing to react so passive to inappropriate behavior. For example, instead of getting angry at the cab driver who started to fondle her leg, my friend tried to laugh it off and move down the seat, out of his reach. And the Red Line lady on your blog, she only got up and moved to a different car! I can't say that I would have done anything differently in either situation because I don't think I would. I'm starting to think that as women (and to some extent, as part of the "please everybody" culture of the U.S.) we are taught to not make too many waves, and to react politely, even in the face of rude behavior.* I think we ignore our built in instincts. Why is it that no one ever tells you, "the minute someone makes you uncomfortable, it is OK to be rude,"?

One of my favorite advice columnists is Carolyn Hax. She frequently recommends a book called The Gift of Fear, which in a nutshells says we need to listen to our intuition when something sounds or feels or seems wrong. Fear has a purpose, and that purpose is to keep us safe. I think comparisons can be drawn to our general intuition about the people and things around us. When that "6th sense" goes off and alerts us that something isn't quite right, I think we ignore it or react passively to the situation much too frequently. This is not to say that we can or should give every sidewalk-occupying bum at the metro stop a piece of our mind, but when someone is approaching you in an inappropriate way, or spewing obscenities, masturbating in public in front of you, I think you are at some liberty to take stronger action than ignoring it and trying to walk away.

Best of luck with your blog. I hope the publicity from DCist works out well and that you will continue to get contributions to your blog that will expand the scope and give men and women in the city a chance to think about how we deal with this unwanted behavior.


*This is clearly a BROAD generalization. But honestly, most politely raised people (women AND men) are going to take the "smile nod and walk away from the weird guy" approach to most odd/rude behavior from others, yes?

I think safety is an issue when it comes to a reaction. "Will I be able speak up and walk away safely...or will he become a physical threat to me?" There is no one foolproof way to handle harassment since it is impossible to predict the reaction of the harasser.

I don't have the answer as to how to 100% handle street harassment. For some, a simple "leave me alone!" works. For others, walking away works. You have to trust your gut feeling as to how you'll handle that situation.

And Victoria makes a good point...harassees aren't only women. Men can be the subject of harassment as well. I do not want to marginalize men and women. Whether you are male or female, please feel free to tell your story here.

I open the forum: what ways do you think work in handling street harassment?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sorry dude...

Sorry I let you down...because I created this blog with you in mind. (rolls eyes)

Moving on...

Another response and noted blog


I appreciate the positive messages you keep sending my way, and the courage you have to tell your stories about dealing with street harassment.

MissUnderestimated has linked to my blog, and Danielle submitted a story:

SO HAPPY to read about your blog on DCist!

Street harassment is out of control here in DC. It’s worse here than any city in any country I’ve even been to. Without fail, I am harassed every time I leave the house without my boyfriend. Every time. Once I was leaving work (restaurant on 18th street) and a guy in a delivery truck was honking and licking his lips at me. After a long day of waiting tables, I had very little patience for this and gave him the middle finger. As I was crossing Columbia Road a few minutes later, I saw that he had (probably) followed me and was honking and yelling at me. He practically stopped traffic to slow his van down to continue harassing me! It’s unbelievable.

I could go on forever with specific examples… I am uncomfortable walking the streets of this city at any hour of the day. It truly is one of the reasons that I want to move somewhere else! All of my girlfriends have similar stories.

Let your blog be just the beginning… I went to a workshop on street harassment years ago and learned a lot. Please keep writing and encouraging others to speak up! Contact newspapers and the media about your blog and your cause!

(I already feel better just from writing you – thanks!)

I will definitely keep fighting until street harassment comes to a screeching halt...thanks for your story.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

People are starting to talk...

The publicity from DCist and other blogs has had people commenting on the blog like mad. People are telling more stories as well. Here's one from reader K:

Hey there! I'm sure you're getting a ton of emails since the DCist post. I was actually interested in writing about street harassment in DC but was disappointed to find so little action on HollaBackDC.
Anyway, a while ago I was walking by New York Avenue NW and 6th St NW and some guy actually started following me and yelling things about how he wanted to go on a date, then started yelling at me for not talking to him. I'm not a confrontational person and my usual response to people who yell at me is to just ignore them but this guy was following me until I finally yelled at him to get the hell away from me or something to that effect.
To contrast that with an experience in New York City, my boyfriend and I went to see a play one night in NY and wandered around afterwards. When we were waiting for the light to change to cross the street, a young guy yelled at him, "Hey, is that your girlfriend? You're a lucky guy!!"
I think the experience in New York was okay - I didn't feel threatened at all. Being followed by a guy I don't know in DC - threatening.
Also, one day when I was standing outside of my house [in Shaw], a woman was asking me how I felt about the neighborhood because she was interested in buying a condo. I talked to her for a few minutes about how I didn't think it was too bad when a group of boys came up behind me. One of them slapped my ass and they all ran away giggling. Classy, huh?
Thanks for listening!

So for all the people who say "ignore it" and "who cares," please realize that this crap DOES HAPPEN in DC! Instead of putting each other down and arguing with one another, we need to stick together and fight against this problem!

Blogs Noted

DCist did a write up on my blog, but it seems like the commenters aren't getting the depth of how much of a problem street harassment is.

In response to my posting her story on my blog, Nothing Permanent linked my blog on her site.

Life Off Balance made a blog post about it as well. "Maybe I'm Just Ugly?" No, it has nothing to do with your has a lot to do with the messed-up mentality of these men who need to target a "smaller" victim.

Whatever anyone's take on this, I am glad that the issue of street harassment is starting to be realized. I hope people start to take more action against it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Perverts on the Red Line make me see RED.

This came into my inbox from reader Lindsey:

About a year ago, as I was commuting to work on the
Red Line, a man wearing baggy gym shorts got on my
train at Metro Center. I was running late and the car
was fairly empty for a weekday morning. He sat down
on the other side of the doors facing me and just
stared. Within moments, this man splayed his legs
letting EVERYTHING be seen, and began rubbing himself.
There were other people on the train and I remember
thinking to myself, “Is this really happening?
Doesn’t anyone else see what is going on?”

Shocked and incredibly uncomfortable, I tried to avoid
his direct line of sight and shifted to one of the
seats situated to the side. I figured that since I
was getting off at Gallery Place to switch trains, I
would be able to remove myself from the situation
rather quickly. As the doors opened, I practically
leapt off the train and walked as fast I could to the
platform below to get on the next train. Luckily, one
was just pulling up. The doors opened, I got inside,
took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Wow.
Crisis averted.”

Just as the “Stand back, doors are closing” warning
played, the man jumped between the doors and got onto
my car. I could not believe it. He took the same
seat on the other side of the doors facing me and
picked up right where he had left off. I again
switched seats so that I was to the side and just
counted the minutes until it was my station. This man
masturbated the entire way from Gallery Place to
L’Enfant Plaza. I could see the reflection of his
face in the door, staring at me with this smirk on his
face, as if to say, “Like what you see?” While I did
not make eye contact with him, I could still feel his
eyes on me. Once the train arrived at L’Enfant Plaza,
I made a mental note of what the car number was and I
went straight to the station manager to report the
man. I provided the train line and its direction, the
car number and a detailed description of what the man
looked like. The metro worker called Metro Center to
report the incident to the Metro Police and to see if
they could dispatch an officer to the train at the
next station. I left my business card with the
station manager and went to my office.

The second I sat down at my desk, I started to cry. I
couldn’t stop the tears and I just felt disgusting.
One of my co-workers walked by and asked what was
wrong. Between sobs, I explained what had happened.
While I know he thought he was helping when he said
that I should be glad that the man didn’t touch me and
that things like that happen – he made me more upset.
I shouldn’t have to take comfort in the fact that the
man just masturbated in front of me – it shouldn’t
have happened at all. And to say, “things like that
happen,” made me feel worse. I didn’t want my being
violated to be dismissed or diminished. I wanted
justice. As soon as I was composed, I called Metro
Center myself to see if the man had been caught. The
woman who answered told me that she was aware of the
call from the station manager reporting a man exposing
himself and that officers were alerted, but
unfortunately, when they finally caught up with the
train a man matching my description couldn’t be found.
All I could think was that he was free to do it
again, to some other woman.

I don’t often think about that morning and I know that
I did the best I could in the moment - because,
honestly, who really has a prepared response to that
situation? However, sometimes I find myself thinking
of what I could have done differently so that he would
have been caught. Should I have gotten off at the
Navy Memorial station and reported it there? Would
reporting it earlier have helped? Could they have
held the train between stations while an officer was
dispatched to the next station? I can’t change what I
did, and dwelling on it will not help, but I can say
that if it were to happen again, I will be prepared.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t.

I hope it doesn't happen again either to anyone. No one needs to go through this. I want to know what goes through these men's heads when they do this. They must really feel horrible about themselves to make women feel uncomfortable. Lindsey did the right thing in reporting it to an authority figure...I just hope this fool is caught.

Whenever you see this happening, report it. By not acting, you're enabling this. We refuse to accept this as normal behavior. Take a stand!

Flirt vs. Leer

Reader Elizabeth sent me this link to her blog post.


As some of you may recall, I wrote a post where I was somewhat excited to live in an area where my type of physique is considered attractive. Now it didn't mean that I thought that sexually objectifying women was fine, cause it's not. And it also didn't mean that sometimes it crossed an unexplainable line that made me feel, well, harassed. Lately, that line as been crossed so much that I'm constantly pissed walking down the street or going to my staff cafeteria. Seriously, at a library, I'm getting bullshit like, "You're so beautiful, oh you're married, he won't mind," or "Are you German?" (what does that even mean?) or "You must be a Capricorn because of all the earth tones you're wearing" (for the record, I'm a Pisces). Now, these sound fairly harmless, but when accompanied by that little something creepy--slowing down a car, standing too close, following me to my office--it takes on that "other" quality that makes me feel icky instead of, well, secretly flattered.

And then, this week, it totally hit me. The "line" is totally in the meaning behind the eyes.

Read the rest of her post here. I swear, these men make me sick. Do they actually think these lame pick-up lines work?

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Lesson for the Men

Blogger Nothing Permanent recalls an incident that happened while she was in DC:

A few months ago, while visiting a friend in Washington, DC, I was alone at the National Gallery of Art. I was examining a painting, deep in thought, when I suddenly felt a presence behind me. Okay, someone had personal space issues. They were probably from another country, where personal space is not a huge issue. I can deal with that. Then I felt something hard on my lower back. I knew immediately it was that asshole's dick.

I moved forward. So did he. I went to the next painting, so did he. And he quickly returned to the same position. I exited that room and went to one with a rather nasty looking guard. So did he. And, well, you can guess where he decided to stand. The guard did nothing, even though I know he saw it, considering we were the only two people in the room.

I was terrified.

And I was fucking pissed as hell.

Disgusting. No one wants your nasty dick rubbing against them. Nasty jerk.

Read the rest of Nothing Permanent's story here.

Woman Ran Over By a Truck...

...because she didn't want to respond to the driver's catcalls. Horrific, saddening, and just plain aggravating. What will it take to make these men get it? Leave us the hell alone!

Not so tough with a camera on ya, eh?

This is not from DC, but any incident of street harassment needs to be put out there.

A girl talks about how these men at a construction site would hit on her as she'd walk by, so the next time she passed them by she came prepared with a camcorder. These idiots surely weren't gonna catcall her on camera, so they tried to save face.

Give up, losers. We all know you're guilty.

The video of her confrontation here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


My handle, ironically, is "Golden Silence," but that has nothing to do with handling street harassment. I came up with that handle a year ago when I started my personal blog with that same title. It has to do with my being a writer. Trust me folks, "Golden Silence" does not remain silent when it comes to dealing with street harassment.

When I lived in my hometown of Buffalo, NY, men catcalled and made comments on the streets. It was annoying, but never as bad as what I've dealt with since moving to DC. It seems that my simply being a female was an "invitation" for these men to say whatever they want.

I've been harassed in all sorts of ways by these men. I've been called a "bitch," "gay," "ugly," and have been threatened with physical violence, simply because I refused to give these men the satisfaction they wanted. Sorry, but I don't respond to "shorty," "baby," "sexy," and colorist comments such as "Redbone" and "Snowflake." I only respond to "Miss" and "Ma'am."

HollaBack DC had a great website, but it seems to have become defunct. I'm stepping in where they left off to give the women of DC a place to speak up about their ordeals with street harassment.

It happens to young women, it happens to older women, and even worse, it's happening to little girls. The harassers range in age as well...from the dirty old men to little boys who don't have positive male role models in their lives and who think telling a woman "I'mma hit dat!" is the way to get her attention.

We need support against this in any way we can. I really don't have much of that from family. Some of the female members in my family like the male attention, and one female member, instead of understanding how pissed I was at being reduced to "Redbone" by some idiot on the street, said "You are a redbone!" Others think the best thing to do is ignore it. "Men will be men," they'll say. But I refuse to accept this as normal male behavior towards women!

In time, I want to make the next step towards getting off the Net and fighting street harassment. I'm sick and tired of the loser men on the streets feeling like they can get away with this shit. It's up to all of us to make a stand. Not only women can fight back, but men, you can stand up for us whenever you see this happening to us. Let those raggedy men know that that's not the way a real man acts.

So here's a place for people to speak up about their street harassment issues. Whether it happened in a rough area like Rhode Island Avenue NE, or a ritzy area like Georgetown, speak up! Don't Be Silent!!!