Don’t Look, Don’t Speak, and Definitely Do Not Touch

If only this were about a cartoon and three magic wishes.

El Mundo | Allex Coles | March 21, 2016

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It’s no secret that spring is Howard’s favorite season, and any number of alum would verify that this statement’s truth has endured the test of time. The struggle becomes so real as you try to stay focused in Douglass Hall while you listen to the spring-time buzz seeping in through finally-open windows, intoxicating your peers who are fortunate enough not to be sitting in that 1:10 class that you are. The sundresses are out and the class Uggs tucked neatly away as we transition from spending our time under heating blankets and comforters to lazily lounging on the Yard or throwing Frisbees.

There’s only one thing I hate about this time of year, and, no, it’s not the seasonal allergies that inevitably come with it. It’s the wild, boldness that manifests in brief stalking, catcalls, and uncomfortable staring from the street urchin who surround our precious Mecca–our home.

The faster you walk, the harder the cretin stares; the more disinterested you look, the louder the “don’t-you-know-how-to-smile”s become. Cars honk at you, and then they slow down and you do your best to pretend that they were cursing the imaginary traffic in front of them without deigning to give them the attention they so desperately desire.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. If you haven’t personally experienced it yourself, you’ve surely witnessed it.

Street harassment is present.
And in abundance.

In short, there is no way to protect yourself from unwanted approach on the streets. So, why do we have to spend that extra second in the doorframe before stepping onto Georgia Avenue to check which side of the street holds fewer potential harassers? Why do we have change our outfits in the morning because we think we might be showing an inch-too-much leg?
It has always been said that D.C. men are of a different breed, and this certainly applies to the street harassers as well. But… boys will be boys, right? Crusty old men will be crusty old men, am I wrong?

The evidence says, yes, boys will be boys. In 2014 national survey, 65% of women reported having experienced street harassment, which includes sexual touching (23%), following (20%), and forced sexual contact (9%).

The evidence also, however, proves that women are not the only victims. We often forget our male and LGBTQ counterparts when we consider these statistics, meaning we often fail to acknowledge the broad spectrum of perpetrators, as well.

1 in 4 men report having been street harassed.

Certainly, more men of the LGBTQ community have fallen victim to street harassment, but these statistics do not exclude heterosexual men. However, 9% of male harassment has taken form the form of homophobic or transphobic slurs.

So, it would seem, street harassers are equal opportunists, of sorts; happy to inflict discomfort wherever they can. So, what do we do about it? This wouldn’t be much of an article if I didn’t try to provide you any solutions, right?

1. Respond

If you feel enough in control of the situation to say something, say something. Tell that man to politely back up; tell that woman that her words and attention are not, in fact, flattering, and you’d prefer if she didn’t speak to you at all. You can’t control what they do, but you can control your response–feel free to get creative.

2. Intervene

Like I said, we see other people being bothered on the street all of the time. If you have it in your personality to be the knight in shining armor, point out to the harasser that the victim is totally a victim and totally uninterested. No one likes to be told how stupid they look.

3. Report

Call the police (or campus police). The worst thing that can happen is you get a couple extra eyes on spots in the city that are particular infested with harassers. Most forms of street harassment are considered illegal in all 50 states and the District. Your call is not a nuisance.

Stay safe out there, y’all. And it’s okay to make a scene for the sake of your comfort.