Sexual Harassment By Men In Uniform
This week, local street harassment blog Holla Back DC recorded two incidents of street harassment by local firefighters. In the year that Holla Back has been publicizing sexual harassment in the District, the blog has aired plenty of stories of harassment originating from the District's men in uniform. In honor of this dubious occasion, I've collected the stories submitted to Holla Back about those firefighters, police officers, security guards, deliverymen, and bus drivers who are comfortable hollering at women while representing the D.C. government—or UPS.
As I was looking down the street at oncoming traffic, a fire engine drove by. It was not on its way to an emergency, as its lights and siren weren’t on and they were driving at a somewhat slow speed. However, they honked their loud siren at me and started cheering out of the window. This was of course just as my fiance was walking out of the ATM. He was offended that men in uniform would do that, and to tell you the truth, it made me feel like common street trash and that they treated me like a hooker.
A few weeks ago, I was walking my dog past Dunbar High School across from the fire station. It was one of the particularly beautiful days we’ve had this Spring, and a group of all male firefighters was sitting on lawn chairs outside. A couple of the firefighters hollered at me from across the busy street, but I couldn’t understand their exact words because of the traffic. When I (reluctantly) glanced over, it was clear from their leering and the lack of any other pedestrians in the vicinity that they were targeting me. I understand they wanted to enjoy the nice day out, and evidently they weren’t busy fighting any fires, but their behavior toward me was unprofessional. I wanted to enjoy my time outside, too. Instead I felt uncomfortable and the need to get away
* Harassment by U.S. Capitol police officer :
when I came upstairs, one of the capitol police guys started asking me a bunch of questions about myself. At first I thought he was just doing his job, or being friendly. But then he asked me for a number. I attempted to excuse myself, but I didn’t feel free to totally blow him off because he was a police officer. He persisted in “can I get to know you?” and “next time you’re in town, you can stay at my house,” and “you’re so beautiful,” and “you know, I could take very good care of you, and you could take care of me [implying sex].” Finally, I told him that I date women, not men… that’s not actually true, but I thought it would be a way to excuse myself without hurting his pride. His response was “really? Well, maybe I can turn you back.” That has to be the most offensive thing he could have said. He also suggested that we could take a bath together, and that he could wash me. This went on for at least 15 minutes—if he’d been some loser on the street, or a rent-a-cop, I totally would have left, but I was afraid to piss off a capitol officer, so I put up with the bullshit until finally I told him that I would think about calling him, and he put his number into my palm.I was actually a bit threatened/frightened by the incident, because he was a police officer, and very persistent, and sexually explicit right off the bat. I hate that shit!
* Harassment by uniformed officer:
The other night my roommate and I were going to a club together. We had both never been to the place before and weren’t really familiar with the area so we were looking a little ‘distraught’. As we were passing a street corner we spoted a few police officers or security guard looking men. So, being 2 girls alone we decided to cross over to their side of the street. However, as we cross over we hear an onslaught of sexual remarks. “Hey baby where are you going tonight? You sure look sexy in that skirt!” We didn’t really think much of it – beyond the fact that it was annoying- until we realized who it was who was saying these things. It was none other then those officers/ security guards we were going towards! We both walked past them as quickly as possible. It was one of the most ironic situations!
Tonight I left my gym (13th and F NW) and hurried down the street to catch my bus home. I was walking and texting, and I noticed a uniformed guard standing outside a building up ahead. As I passed, he said loudly, “Hey yo, can I get a text too?” I kept my head down and ignored him; I had a long day at work and I was tired. I always feel somewhat defeated when someone in uniform (guard, police officer) says something or leers at me. I suppose it’s because they’re supposed to protect us and make us feel safe.
Then there’s the evening security guard at my office building who, if nobody else happens to be in the lobby, will carry on with the, “Hey sexy, how are you? I like that dress, you look fine. Give me a smile, girl. I watched you walk all the way down the street the other day,” until I’m out of the building. This happens several times a week.
* Harassment by UPS employee:
After getting my free ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, at M & 31st I had to crouch down to pull my umbrella out of my bag since it started raining. A UPS driver was waiting at the light, and he had to say something to me:
“Ooh, girl! You don’t need to finish that all by yourself!”
Ugh! This man did not give a damn about his job.
When I told him that it was tacky and classless for him to hit on me in uniform, he started cracking up. Oh yes, sexual harassment is funny! (obvious sarcasm).
I am never one who takes harassment lightly, be it from a citizen or someone in uniform representing a company . . . I did get the UPS driver’s license plate number: Maryland plates 21S 925. As soon as I got home I called UPS to report him, and the woman who took the info down was so sympathetic and apologetic and said she’d have someone get in touch with me in the morning.
Ladies, don’t let these men get away with harassment, and never feel bad about these men getting in trouble at work if you report them. If they cared about having jobs they wouldn’t feel the need to do this in the first place.
This may sound silly to people, but this makes me uncomfortable. There’s this driver of the 38B that goes through Georgetown around 5:40 in the evenings, and when we board the bus, he completely ignores everyone else but says “Hi, howya doin’?” to me. Then he stares at me a little too long for my taste. I have no problem saying “hi” to a bus driver if s/he says “hi” first—I do it frequently and thank them when I get off the bus. . . . One time I didn’t respond to his “hi,” and he gives a huge sigh and mumbles something under his breath. I don’t know why this driver is so desperate to get my attention. If it’s for what I think it is, then sorry man, I’m not interested in you like that. My only interest in you is for you to get me to my destination safely.
i never bothered to complain when this one bus driver would harrass me. if they cant even get their shit together to get my bus on schedule, how much faith do i have in them following up on dirty and corrupt employees? BUT it’s time to take a stand and hold them accountable!
* Harassment by parking attendant:
I was not being harassed, but I saw a young woman approaching me walking toward the garage in a professional dress. There were two men standing at the entrance to the garage, one wearing a PMI hat and appeared to be the attendant. The other man was wearing a light green button up shirt. The men cat-called and said things loudly in a language I could not understand (but the intent was clear) while pointing and turning their bodies to follow the path of the young woman, who ignored them.
Even in uniform, no respect.
File your experiences with uniformed street harassment in the comments. Here's mine.
Photo via NCinDC, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0