The Sexist

D.C.’s Most Harassing Neighborhoods

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For the past few months, street harassment blog Holla Back DC has been charting incidents of harassment by neighborhood on the blog's Google map. Examining D.C.'s cat-calls, honks, and gropes on the level of the neighborhood—and even the intersection—is an important tool for women who walk. For some, harassment is even a neighborhood deal-breaker: More than one Holla Back DC contributor has cited street harassment as a reason for considering relocation.
So which neighborhoods are most prone to harassment? Of the 96 incidents reported on the map:

One is in Bloomingdale.
Two are in Virginia.
Three are in Georgetown.
Four are in Adams Morgan.
Five are in Logan Circle.
Six are at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop.
Eight are in Dupont.
Nine are in Southeast.
Fifteen are somewhere along 14th Street.

Of course, the map also shows the neighborhoods frequented by women likely to report their harassment to Holla Back DC. It's possible that the blog's readers just happen to hang out a lot in Dupont, along 14th Street, and outside the Rhode Island Metro Stop. But the results still came as a bit of a surprise to me. How does D.C.'s gayest neighborhood experience so much harassment against women?

Women shouldn't have to fear walking alone anywhere. And if the Holla Back DC map shows anything, it's that harassment happens everywhere: outside a Metro stop, down the busiest corridor in the city, and around one of D.C.'s most progressive neighborhoods. I can't account for the popularity of street harassment in Washington, D.C., but I have noticed that bystanders—even progressive, socially aware bystanders who reject violence against women—either don't notice that it's happening, or just don't care. Women who suffer harassment have can holler back. Isn't it time that onlookers do the same?

  • Caro

    *sorry for the double post, hit enter by mistake*

    There has been discussion a few times on HollabackDC of "Harassment Hill" -- 14th Street, NW between U Street and the DC USA area in Columbia Heights. I hadn't really thought about it before reading that, but now I realize that I get harassed at least once (and sometimes more) on about 75% of my trips up or down that hill.

    In any case, I think you're right to point out that this map is not necessarily where street harassment is the most prevalent, but rather where the women who are reading and submitted to HollabackDC are living and traveling.

  • kza

    I never get fucking cat called. Why not ladies? I'll even take gay men, i just want strangers to confirm to me that I am attractive!

  • Victor

    I had a gay man circle me on his bicycle for a block along P and 14th, at the end of the block he finally came up to me and started asking whether I lifeguarded at some pool or something... something about having a swimmer's body.

    Guess I'm that good looking. :) sorry kza!

  • Hill Rat

    Excellent point about the audience of Hollaback skewing the results.

    As for why more bystanders don't get involved, I'll forward the theory that men who are aware of/concerned about street harassment are also the kind of guys who are worried about appearing paternalistic if they insert themselves into a situation uninvited. No one wants to be, "that loser dude who thought he was *saving* me" if he gets involved in a situation that looks out of control to him, but is under control as far as the harassed party is concerned.

  • Victor

    In all seriousness however, the gf does get a lot of this crap if I'm not with her. For a while there was a group of 3-4 homeless men who would use a small park across from Thomas Circle as their bar all day. They would attempt to interact with all women as they walked by along M st. The gf stopped walking along that side of the street because of them.

    In these cases there is little that can be done. It isn't really going to make any impact on a drunk homeless guy to tell him that his behavior is inappropriate. The police have better things to do. I suppose a vigilante group men beating up homeless guys might have a positive impact, but that's about the only option.

  • jules

    I had the creepiest thing happen on Sunday coming out of the Farragut West metro. Some guy approached saying that he was "raising money for the Boys and Girls club" but he quickly abandoned that and told me I was beautiful. He asked if he could walk with me and I started walking away faster. He asked if I had a boyfriend and I said "yes." He told me "It's alright, he don't have to know, we'll make it quick and hard, how you like it, that gangster shit!"

    I almost started laughing, until he jumped in front me and grabbed a chunk of my hair and sniffed it.


  • Quinn

    I never go to Adams Morgan anymore because of two incidents that happened there. The first, a guy put his hand up my skirt. The second a guy stroked my hair as I walked by. Ewww...

  • Victor

    If you're in public, in the daytime, in view of a number of people... hit the person.

  • Magnetic Crow

    Aww, Victor, how nice of you to encourage us ladies to be proactive in our own defense! Sadly, in situations where we might physically defend ourselves against harassment, there's usually a good chance that the harassing party will retaliate with violence as well. This is a huge part of why street harassment is so terrifying, because it's often so fraught with actual threats of violence from the creep who's perpetrating it.
    Being followed down the street by three men screaming misogynistic epithets interspersed with graphic threats of rape is not a very physically comfortable position for most women, where they would believe that they could best their harassers in a fight! Not to mention men who follow women down the street in their cars, doing the same.
    So thank you for your thoughtful advice, but I'm afraid it doesn't mesh with reality in any kind of constructive way.

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  • victor

    To an extent, I am serious. Note, I qualified it as being in the daytime, in public and in the view of a number of people.

    As a male "bystander", we don't always know what's going on. If a harrasser just grabs a woman quickly and briefly, we likely won't see it. We may get the sense that something has happened, and look over in that direction, but by the time it's got out attention, it's over. If a guy is speaking to a girl, we may not know what he is saying or what the relationship between the two is.

    Hauling off and hitting the guy (or kicking him) will make it very clear to us bystanders that there is something going on. The other option is to simply make a lot of noise in order to draw attention to the situation. I just figured you'd get more satisfaction from hitting the person.

    Of course this doesn't work with a car driving by. But there's nothing we can do about a car driving by either. As for 3 guys following you down the street, yelling... I've never actually seen that situation. I don't doubt it happens, but I don't know if it is the norm.

  • Amanda Hess

    About a year ago, I was followed for about a mile through Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan by a guy who was upset that I was not a prostitute. It was very late, so there weren't too many people out in Mt. P. After it was clear that the guy was not going to leave me alone, I twice stopped men that were passing by and asked if they would walk with me for a little bit. It sucked: I didn't want to have to trust those strangers either, and I'm sure they didn't want to trust/waste their time on me. They ignored me. (Even when it's obvious something is going on, sometimes bystanders won't help). I was about to call the police when I came across a homeless woman who was heading to Adams Morgan, too. She walked with me, SCREAMING at the guy, until he turned around. Thank you!

  • Charlie

    While the police probably are not going to get involved with people saying words, it seems to me touching is an entirely different matter.

    Does Chief Lanier read your column?I would be interested in knowing what she has to say about this.

  • KaFaraqGatri

    A couple of months ago I had to have words with a guy on the bus that goes up 7th street. He started catcalling somewhere around Florida Ave and didnt really ever stop.

    I did have a guy in Chinatown complement me on my nice Jewish Ass. My girlfirend was quite ammused.

  • victor

    Maybe the strangers thought you were a prostitute too? :)

  • Christina

    A couple of times I've opened my phone started to dial 911 and said I'm calling the cops when the guy isn't backing off and that surprisingly works very well. Even if you don't want to do that pick up the phone and just dial a friend to give the impression, I think these guys would rather not deal with the possibility of being hassled by cops.

  • Quinn

    Or maybe we should start to carry pepper spray and brass knuckles. Seriously.

  • ABF

    When I lived in DC I lives on 14th street near Columbia Heights. The harassment was daily and it happened so much that sometimes I would just stay in my apartment to avoid having men trying to follow me or talk to me or shout at me from their cars or touching me. It's exhausting.

    Instead of telling women what to do in response to harassers, we need to tell men to stop harassing women. People need to step in and show what they're doing is not OK. If we have a street culture that holds the harassers accountable and not the victims, we definitely could move forward in changing how often it happens.

  • Victor

    So I thought about this a little bit over the weekend.

    I have to say, that I'm a little disappointed in the "why aren't the men saving me from the harrasser" attitude is a little screwy.

    In the example where 3 guys are following the woman down the street screaming epithets at her... yes, that's a bad situation. But to suggest that a white knight male should step in and sternly tell those guys off is wishful thinking. If you, as a woman, are afraid of a situation escalating to violence... well, what do you think will happen if a man steps in?

    Why is it "okay" for a random male bystander to intervene and run the risk of getting beat up, but NOT "okay" for the woman to run a similar risk?

    As for telling men to stop harassing women. Good luck. We aren't talking about society's elites yelling out their car window or following women. We're talking about the homeless, the disenfranchised and other individuals that aren't going to give a rats ass whether I or any other person reading this approves of their behavior. They are only looking for approval within whatever social circles they inhabit. The only other way to make an impression on them is to jail them or beat them.

  • Amanda Hess

    I didn't say the person intervening had to be a man. In my case, it was a woman. And I'm really thankful she was there!

  • tasbags

    Victor, what is going with you?

  • tasbags

    What I mean is:

    It just seems like you are always looking for ways to make the woman the "bad guy," in every situation.

    Why do you do that?